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If Mr. Wells has also written the following novels: 













If The following fantastic and imaginative romances: 














Numerous short stories collected under the following titles: 

Tf The same short stories will also be found in three volumes: 

IT A Series of books on social, religious and political questions: 



If And two little books about children’s play, called: 







J. Bata 

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1 TAR 10 

j£eto gorfe 


All rights reserved 

TlU .ID 

Copyright, 1923 and 1924, 
By H. G. WELLS. 

Set up and electrotyped. 
Published April, 1924. 

Printed in the United States of America by 




The Excursion. 3 


The Beginning of the Dream.15 


Misfortunes Come Upon the Smith Family . 60 


The Widow Smith Moves to London .... 97 


Fanny Discovers Herself . 159 


Marriage in War Time.229 

Love and Death .271 


The Epilogue.312 


Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2019 with funding from 
Kahle/Austin Foundation 

Part I 

How Harry Mortimer Smith 
Was Made 




§ 1 

Sarnac had worked almost continuously for the 
better part of a year upon some very subtle chemical 
reactions of the nervous cells of the sympathetic 
system. His first enquiries had led to the opening 
out of fresh and surprising possibilities, and these 
again had lured him on to still broader and more 
fascinating prospects. He worked perhaps too 
closely; he found his hope and curiosity unimpaired, 
but there was less delicacy of touch in his manipula¬ 
tion, and he w T as thinking less quickly and accu¬ 
rately. He needed a holiday. He had come to the 
end of a chapter in his work and wished to brace 
himself for a new beginning. Sunray had long hoped 
to be away with him; she, too, was at a phase in 
her work when interruption was possible, and so the 
two went off together to wander among the lakes 
and mountains. 

Their companionship was at a very delightful 
stage. Their close relationship and their friendship 
was of old standing, so that they were quite at their 
ease with one another, yet they were not too familiar 




to have lost the keen edge of their interest in each 
other’s proceedings. Sunray was very much in love 
with Sarnac and glad, and Sarnac was always happy 
and pleasantly exalted when Sunray was near him. 
Sunray was the richer-hearted and cleverer lover. 
They talked of everything in the world but Sarnac’s 
work because that had to rest and grow fresh again. 
Of her own work Sunray talked abundantly. She 
had been making stories and pictures of happiness 
and sorrow in the past ages of the world, and she was 
full of curious speculations about the ways in which 
the ancestral mind has thought and felt. 

They played with boats upon the great lake for 
some days, they sailed and paddled and drew up 
their canoe among the sweet-scented rushes of the 
islands and bathed and swam. They went from one 
guest-house to another upon the water and met 
many interesting and refreshing people. In one 
house an old man of ninety-eight was staying: he 
was amusing his declining years by making statuettes 
of the greatest beauty and humour; it was wonderful 
to see the clay take shape in his hands. Moreover, 
he had a method of cooking the lake fish that was 
very appetising, and he made a great dish of them 
so that everyone who was dining in the place could 
have some. And there w T as a musician w T ho made 
Sunray talk about the days gone by, and afterwards 
he played music with his own hands on a clavier to 
express the ancient feelings of men. He played one 
piece that was, he explained, two thousand years 
old; it was by a man named Chopin, and it was 
called the Revolutionary Etude. Sunray could not 
have believed a piano capable of such passionate 



resentment. After that he played grotesque and 
angry battle music and crude marching tunes from 
those half-forgotten times, and then he invented 
wrathful and passionate music of his own. 

Sunray sat under a golden lantern and listened to 
the musician and watched his nimble hands, but 
Sarnac was more deeply moved. He had not heard 
very much music in his life, and this player seemed 
to open shutters upon deep and dark and violent 
things that had long been closed to mankind. Sar¬ 
nac sat, cheek on hand, his elbow on the parapet of 
the garden wall, looking across the steely blue of 
the lake at the darkling night sky at the lower end. 
The sky had been starry, but a monstrous crescent 
of clouds like a hand that closes was now gathering 
all the stars into its fist of darkness. Perhaps there 
would be rain to-morrow. The lanterns hung still, 
except that ever and again a little shiver of the air 
set them swaying. Now and then a great white 
moth would come fluttering out of the night and 
beat about among the lanterns for a time and pass 
away. Presently it would return again or another 
moth like it would come. Sometimes there would 
be three or four of these transitory phantoms; they 
seemed to be the only insects abroad that night. 

A faint ripple below drew his attention to the light 
of a boat, a round yellow light like a glowing orange, 
which came gliding close up to the terrace wall out 
of the blue of the night. There was the sound of 
a paddle being shipped and a diminishing drip of 
water, but the people in the boat sat still and 
listened until the musician had done altogether. 



Then they came up the steps to the terrace and 
asked the master of the guest-house for rooms for 
the night. They had dined at a place farther up 
the lake. 

Four people came by this boat. Two were brother 
and sister, dark handsome people of southern origin, 
and the others were fair women, one blue-eyed and 
one with hazel eyes, who were clearly very much 
attached to the brother and sister. They came and 
talked about the music and then of a climbing ex¬ 
pedition they had promised themselves in the great 
mountains above the lakes. The brother and sis¬ 
ter were named Radiant and Starlight, and their 
work in life, they explained, was to educate ani¬ 
mals; it was a business for which they had an 
almost instinctive skill. The two fair girls, Willow 
and Firefly, were electricians. During the last 
few days Sunray had been looking ever and again 
at the glittering snowfields and desiring them; 
there was always a magic call for her in snowy 
mountains. She joined very eagerly in the mountain 
talk, and it was presently suggested that she and 
Sarnac should accompany these new acquaintances 
up to the peaks they had in mind. But before 
they went on to the mountains, she and Sarnac 
wanted to visit some ancient remains that had 
recently been excavated in a valley that came down 
to the lake from the east. The four new-comers 
were interested in what she told them about these 
ruins, and altered their own plans to go with her 
and Sarnac to see them. Then afterwards all six 
would go into the mountains. 



§ 2 

These ruins were rather more than two thousand 
years old. 

There were the remains of a small old town, 
a railway station of some importance, and a rail¬ 
way tunnel which came right through the moun¬ 
tains. The tunnel had collapsed, but the excavators 
had worked along it and found several wrecked trains 
in it which had evidently been packed with soldiers 
and refugees. The remains of these people, much 
disturbed by rats and other vermin, lay about in 
the trains and upon the railway tracks. The tun¬ 
nel had apparently been blocked by explosives 
and these trainloads of people entombed. After¬ 
wards the town itself and all its inhabitants had 
been destroyed by poison-gas, but what sort of 
poison-gas it was the investigators had still to decide. 
It had had an unusual pickling effect, so that many 
of the bodies were not so much skeletons as mum¬ 
mies; and there were books, papers, papier mache 
objects or the like in a fair state of preservation in 
many of the houses. Even cheap cotton goods 
were preserved, though they had lost all their colour. 
For some time after the great catastrophe this 
part of the world must have remained practically 
uninhabited. A landslide had presently blocked 
the lower valley and banked back the valley waters 
so as to submerge the town and cover it with a fine 
silt and seal up the tunnel very completely. Now 
the barrier had been cut through and the valley 
drained again, and all these evidences of one of the 
characteristic disasters of the last war period in 


man’s history had been brought back to the light 
once more. 

The six holiday-makers found the visit to this 
place a very vivid experience, almost too vivid for 
their contentment. On Sarnac’s tired mind it made 
a particularly deep impression. The material col¬ 
lected from the town had been arranged in a long 
museum gallery of steel and glass. There were 
many almost complete bodies; one invalid old 
woman, embalmed by the gas, had been replaced in 
the bed from which the waters had floated her, and 
there was a shrivelled little baby put back again in 
its cradle. The sheets and quilts were bleached and 
browned, but it was quite easy to see what they had 
once been like. The people had been taken by sur¬ 
prise, it seemed, while the midday meal was in 
preparation; the tables must have been set in many 
of the houses; and now, after a score of centuries 
beneath mud and weeds and fishes, the antiquaries 
had disinterred and reassembled these old machine- 
made cloths and plated implements upon the tables. 
There were great stores of such pitiful discoloured 
litter from the vanished life of the past. 

The holiday-makers did not go far into the tunnel; 
the suggestion of things there were too horrible for 
their mood, and Sarnac stumbled over a rail and cut 
his hand upon the jagged edge of a broken railway- 
carriage window. The wound pained him later, and 
did not heal so quickly as it should have done. It 
was as if some poison had got into it. It kept him 
awake in the night. 

For the rest of the day the talk was all of the ter¬ 
rible days of the last wars in the world and the 



dreadfulness of life in that age. It seemed to Firefly 
and Starlight that existence must have been almost 
unendurable, a tissue of hate, terror, want and dis¬ 
comfort, from the cradle to the grave. But Radiant 
argued that people then were perhaps no less happy 
and no happier than himself; that for everyone in 
every age there was a normal state, and that any 
exaltation of hope or sensation above that was hap¬ 
piness and any depression below it misery. It did 
not matter where the normal came. “They went 
to great intensities in both directions,” he said. 
There was more darkness in their lives and more 
pain, but not more unhappiness. Sunray was in¬ 
clined to agree with him. 

But Willow objected to Radiant’s psychology. 
She said that there could be permanently depressed 
states in an unhealthy body or in a life lived under 
restraint. There could be generally miserable crea¬ 
tures just as there could be generally happy crea¬ 

“Of course,” interjected Sarnac, “given a stand¬ 
ard outside themselves.” 

“But why did they make such wars?” cried Fire¬ 
fly. “Why did they do such horrible things to one 
another? They were people like ourselves.” 

“No better,” said Radiant, “and no worse. So 
far as their natural quality went. It is not a hun¬ 
dred generations ago.” 

“Their skulls were as big and well shaped.” 

“Those poor creatures in the tunnel!” said Sar¬ 
nac. “Those poor wretches caught in the tunnel! 
But everyone in that age must have felt caught in 
a tunnel.” 



After a time a storm overtook them and inter¬ 
rupted their conversation. They were going up 
over a low pass to a guest-house at the head of the 
lake, and it was near the crest of the pass that the 
storm burst. The lightning was tremendous and 
a pine-tree was struck not a hundred yards away. 
They cheered the sight. They were all exhilarated 
by the elemental clatter and uproar; the rain was 
like a whip on their bare, strong bodies and the 
wind came in gusts that held them staggering and 
laughing, breathlessly unable to move forward. 
They had doubts and difficulties with the path; 
for a time they lost touch with the blazes upon the 
trees and rocks. Followed a steady torrent of rain, 
through which they splashed and stumbled down 
the foaming rocky pathway to their resting-place. 
They arrived wet as from a swim and glowing; but 
Sarnac, who had come behind the others with Sun- 
ray, was tired and cold. The master of this guest¬ 
house drew his shutters and made a great fire for 
them with pine-knots and pine-cones while he pre¬ 
pared a hot meal. 

After a while they began to talk of the excavated 
town again and of the shrivelled bodies lying away 
there under the electric light of the still glass-walled 
museum, indifferent for evermore to the sunshine 
and thunderstorms of life without. 

“Did they ever laugh as we do?” asked Willow. 
“For sheer happiness of living?” 

Sarnac said very little. He sat close up to the 
fire, pitching pine-cones into it and watching them 
flare and crackle. Presently he got up, confessed 
himself tired, and went away to his bed. 



§ 3 

It rained hard all through the night and until 
nearly midday, and then the weather cleared. In 
the afternoon the little party pushed on up the val¬ 
ley towards the mountains they designed to climb, 
but they went at a leisurely pace, giving a day and 
a half to what was properly only one day’s easy 
walking. The rain had refreshed everything in the 
upper valley and called out a great multitude of 

The next day was golden and serene. 

In the early afternoon they came to a plateau 
and meadows of asphodel, and there they sat down 
to eat the provisions they had brought with them. 
They were only two hours’ climb from the moun¬ 
tain-house in which they were to pass the night, 
and there was no need to press on. Sarnac was 
lazy; he confessed to a desire for sleep; in the night 
he had been feverish and disturbed by dreams of 
men entombed in tunnels and killed by poison-gas. 
The others were amused that anyone should want 
to sleep in the daylight, but Sunray said she would 
watch over him. She found a place for him on the 
sward, and Sarnac laid down beside her and went 
to sleep with his cheek against her side as suddenly 
and trustfully as a child goes to sleep. She sat up 
—as a child’s nurse might do—enjoining silence on 
the others by gestures. 

“After this he will be well again,” laughed Radi¬ 
ant, and he and Firefly stole off in one direction, 
while Willow and Starlight went off in another to 
climb a rocky headland near at hand, from which 



they thought they might get a very wide and per¬ 
haps a very beautiful view of the lakes below. 

For some time Sarnac lay quite still in his sleep 
and then he began to twitch and stir. Sunray bent 
down attentively with her warm face close to his. 
He was quiet again for a time and then he moved 
and muttered, but she could not distinguish any 
words. Then he rolled away from her and threw 
his arms about and said, “I can’t stand it. I can’t 
endure it. Nothing can alter it now. TAu’re un¬ 
clean and spoilt.” She took him gently and drew 
him into a comfortable attitude again, just as a 
nurse might do. “Dear,” he whispered, and in his 
sleep reached out for her hand. . . . 

When the others came back he had just awak¬ 

He was sitting up with a sleepy expression and 
Sunray was kneeling beside him with her hand on 
his shoulder. “Wake up!” she said. 

He looked at her as if he did not know her and 
then with puzzled eyes at Radiant. “Then there is 
another life! ” he said at last. 

“Sarnac!” cried Sunray, shaking him. “Don’t 
you know me?” 

He passed a hand over his face. “Yes,” he said 
slowly. “Your name is Sunray. I seem to remem¬ 
ber. Sunray. ... Not Hetty- No. Though 

you are very like Hetty. Queer! And mine— 
mine is Sarnac. 

“Of course! I am Sarnac.” He laughed at Wil¬ 
low. “But I thought I was Harry Mortimer 
Smith,” he said. “I did indeed. A moment ago I 


was Henry Mortimer Smith. . . . Henry Mortimer 

He looked about him. “Mountains,” he said, 
“sunshine, white narcissus. Of course, we walked 
up here this very morning. Sunray splashed me at 
a waterfall. ... I remember it perfectly. . . . 
And yet I was in bed—shot. I was in bed. . . . 
A dream? ... Then I have had a dream, a whole 
lifetime, two thousand years ago!” 

“What do you mean?” said Sunray. 

“A lifetime—childhood, boyhood, manhood. And 
death. He killed me. Poor rat!—he killed me!” 

“A dream?” 

“A dream—but a very vivid dream. The reallest 
of dreams. If it was a dream. ... I can answer 
all your questions now, Sunray. I have lived 
through a whole life in that old world. I know. . . . 

“It is as though that life was still the real one 
and this only a dream. ... I was in a bed. Five 
minutes ago I was in bed. I was dying. . . . The 
doctor said, ‘He is going.’ And I heard the rustle 
of my wife coming across the room. . . 

“Your wife!” cried Sunray. 

“Yes—my wife—Milly.” 

Sunray looked at Willow with raised eyebrows 
and a helpless expression. 

Sarnac stared at her, dreamily puzzled. “Milly,” 
he repeated very faintly. “She was by the window.” 

For some moments no one spoke. 

Radiant stood with his arm on Firefly’s shoul¬ 

“Tell us about it, Sarnac. Was it hard to die?” 



“I seemed to sink down and down into quiet— 
and then I woke up here.” 

“Tell us now, while it is still so real to you.” 

“Have we not planned to reach the mountain- 
house before nightfall?” said Willow, glancing at 
the sun. 

“There is a little guest-house here, within five 
minutes’ walk of us,” said Firefly. 

Radiant sat down beside Sarnac. “Tell us your 
dream now. If it fades out presently or if it is 
uninteresting, we can go on; but if it is entertain¬ 
ing, we can hear it out and sleep down here to¬ 
night. It is a very pleasant place here, and there 
is a loveliness about those mauve-coloured crags 
across the gorge, a faint mistiness in their folds, 
that I could go on looking at for a week without 
impatience. Tell us your dream, Sarnac.” 

He shook his friend. “Wake up, Sarnac!” 

Sarnac rubbed his eyes. “It is so queer a story. 
And there will be so much to explain.” 

He took thought for a while. 

“It will be a long story.” 

“Naturally, if it is a whole life.” 

“First let me get some cream and fruit from the 
guest-house for us all,” said Firefly, “and then let 
Sarnac tell us his dream. Five minutes, Sarnac, 
and I will be back here.” 

“I will come with you,” said Radiant, hurrying 
after her. 

This that follows is the story Sarnac told. 



§ 1 

“This dream of mine began,” he said, “as all our 
lives begin, in fragments, in a number of discon¬ 
nected impressions. I remember myself lying on a 
sofa, a sofa covered with a curious sort of hard, 
shiny material with a red and black pattern on it, 
and I was screaming, but I do not know why I 
screamed. I discovered my father standing in the 
doorway of the room looking at me. He looked very 
dreadful; he was partially undressed in trousers and 
a flannel shirt and his fair hair was an unbrushed 
shock; he was shaving and his chin was covered 
with lather. He was angry because I was screaming. 
I suppose I stopped screaming, but I am not sure. 
And I remember kneeling upon the same hard red 
and black sofa beside my mother and looking out of 
the window—the sofa used to stand with its back 
to the window-sill—at the rain falling on the road¬ 
way outside. The window-sill smelt faintly of 
paint; soft bad paint that had blistered in the sun. 
It was a violent storm of rain and the road was an 
ill-made road of a yellowish sandy clay. It was 
covered with muddy water and the storming rainfall 
made a multitude of flashing bubbles, that drove 
along before the wind and burst and gave place to 




“ ‘Look at ’em, dearie/ said my mother. ‘Like 

“I think I was still very young when that hap¬ 
pened, but I was not so young that I had not often 
seen soldiers with their helmets and bayonets march¬ 
ing by.” 

“That,” said Radiant, “was some time before the 
Great War, then, and the Social Collapse.” 

“Some time before,” said Sarnac. He considered. 
“Twenty-one years before. This house in which I 
was born was less than two miles from the great 
military camp of the British at Lowcliff in England, 
and Lowcliff railway station was only a few hundred 
yards away. ‘Sojers’ were the most conspicuous 
objects in my world outside my home. They were 
more brightly coloured than other people. My 
mother used to wheel me out for air every day in a 
thing called a perambulator, and whenever there 
were soldiers to be seen she used to say, ‘Oh! Pritty 

“ ‘Sojers’ must have been one of my earliest words. 
I used to point my little wool-encased finger—for 
they wrapped up children tremendously in those 
days and I wore even gloves—and I would say: 

“Let me try and describe to you what sort of 
home this was of mine and what manner of people 
my father and mother were. Such homes and houses 
and places have long since vanished from the world, 
not many relics of them have been kept, and though 
you have probably learnt most of the facts concern¬ 
ing them, I doubt if you can fully realise the feel 
and the reality of the things I found about me. The 



name of the place was Cherry Gardens; it was about 
two miles from the sea at Sandbourne, one way 
lay the town of Cliffstone from which steamboats 
crossed the sea to France, and the other way lay 
Lowcliff and its rows and rows of ugly red brick 
barracks and its great drilling-plain, and behind us 
inland was a sort of plateau covered with raw new 
roads of loose pebbles—you cannot imagine such 
roads!—and vegetable gardens and houses new-built 
or building, and then a line of hills, not very high 
but steep and green and bare, the Downs. The 
Downs made a graceful sky-line that bounded my 
world to the north as the sapphire line of the sea 
bounded it to the south, and they were almost the 
only purely beautiful things in that world. All the 
rest was touched and made painful by human con¬ 
fusion. When I was a very little boy I used to won¬ 
der what lay behind those Downs, but I never went 
up them to see until I was seven or eight years old.” 

“This was before the days of aeroplanes?” asked 

“They came into the world when I was eleven 
or twelve. I saw the first that ever crossed the 
Channel between the mainland of Europe and Eng¬ 
land. That was considered a very wonderful thing 
indeed. (“It was a wonderful thing,” said Sunray.) 
I went with a lot of other boys, and we edged 
through a crowd that stood and stared at the quaint 
old machine; it was like a big canvas grasshopper 
with outspread wings; in a field—somewhere beyond 
Cliffstone. It was being guarded, and the people 
were kept away from it by stakes and a string. 

“I find it hard to describe to you what sort of 



places Cherry Gardens and Cliffstone were like— 
even though we have just visited the ruins of Do- 
modossola. Domodossola was a sprawling, aimless 
town enough, but these sprawled far more and 
looked with a far emptier aimlessness into the face 
of God. You see in the thirty or forty years before 
my birth there had been a period of comparative 
prosperity and productivity in human affairs. It 
was not of course in those days the result of any 
statesmanship or forethought; it just happened,— 
as now and then in the course of a rain-torrent there 
comes a pool of level water between the rapids. But 
the money and credit system was working fairly 
well; there was much trade and intercourse, no 
extensive pestilences, exceptionally helpful seasons, 
and few very widespread wars. As a result of this 
conspiracy of favourable conditions there was a per¬ 
ceptible rise in the standards of life of the common 
people, but for the most part it was discounted by 
a huge increase of population. As our school books 
say, Tn those days Man was his own Locust/ Later 
in my life I was to hear furtive whispers of a for¬ 
bidden topic called Birth Control, but in the days 
of my childhood the whole population of the world, 
with very few exceptions, was in a state of complete 
and carefully protected ignorance about the ele¬ 
mentary facts of human life and happiness. The 
surroundings of my childhood were dominated by an 
unforeseen and uncontrollable proliferation. Cheap 
proliferation was my scenery, my drama, my atmos¬ 

“But they had teachers and priests and doctors 
and rulers to tell them better,” said Willow. 



“Not to tell them better,” said Sarnac. “These 
guides and pilots of life were wonderful people. 
They abounded, and guided no one. So far from 
teaching men and women to control births or avoid 
diseases or work generously together, they rather 
prevented such teaching. This place called Cherry 
Gardens had mostly come into existence in the fifty 
years before my birth. It had grown from a minute 
hamlet into what we used to call an 'urban district.’ 
In that old world in which there was neither freedom 
nor direction, the land was divided up into patches 
of all sorts and sizes and owned by people who did 
what they liked with it, subject to a few vexatious 
and unhelpful restrictions. And in Cherry Gardens, 
a sort of men called speculative builders bought 
pieces of land, often quite unsuitable land, and built 
houses for the swarming increase of population that 
had otherwise nowhere to go. There was no plan 
about this building. One speculative builder built 
here and another there, and each built as cheaply 
as possible and sold or let what he had built for as 
much as possible. Some of the houses they built 
in rows and some stood detached each with a little 
patch of private garden—garden they called it, 
though it was either a muddle or a waste—fenced 
in to keep people out.” 

“Why did they keep people out?” 

“They liked to keep people out. It was a satis¬ 
faction for them. They were not secret gardens. 
People might look over the fence if they chose. And 
each house had its own kitchen where food was 
cooked—there was no public eating-place in Cherry 
Gardens—and each, its separate store of household 



gear. In most houses there was a man who went 
out to work and earn a living—they didn’t so much 
live in those days as earn a living—and came home 
to eat and sleep, and there was a woman, his wife, 
who did all the services, food and cleaning and 
everything, and also she bore children, a lot of un¬ 
premeditated children—because she didn’t know any 
better. She was too busy to look after them well, 
and many of them died. Most days she cooked a 
dinner. She cooked it. . . . It was cooking!” 

Sarnac paused—his brows knit. ‘‘Cooking! Well, 
well. That’s over, anyhow,” he said. 

Radiant laughed cheerfully. 

“Almost everyone suffered from indigestion. The 
newspapers were full of advertisements of cures,” 
said Sarnac, still darkly retrospective. 

“I’ve never thought of that aspect of life in the 
old world,” said Sunray. 

“It was—fundamental,” said Sarnac. “It was a 
world, in every way, out of health. 

“Every morning, except on the Sunday, after the 
man had gone off to his day’s toil and the children 
had been got up and dressed and those who were 
old enough sent off to school, the woman of the 
house tidied up a bit and then came the question 
of getting in food. For this private cooking of hers. 
Every day except Sunday a number of men with 
little pony carts or with barrows they pushed in 
front of them, bearing meat and fish and vegetables 
and fruit, all of it exposed to the weather and any 
dirt that might be blowing about, came bawling 
along the roads of Cherry Gardens, shouting the 
sort of food they were selling. My memory goes 



back to that red and black sofa by the front window 
and I am a child once again. There was a particu¬ 
larly splendid fish hawker. What a voice he had! 
I used to try to reproduce his splendid noises in my 
piping childish cries: ‘Mackroo-E-y’are Macroo! 
Fine Macroo! Thee a Sheen. Macroo/’ 

"The housewives would come out from their do¬ 
mestic mysteries to buy or haggle and, as the saying 
went, ‘pass the time of day’ with their neighbours. 
But everything they wanted was not to be got from 
the hawkers, and that was where my father came in. 
He kept a little shop. He was what was called a 
greengrocer; he sold fruits and vegetables, such poor 
fruits and vegetables as men had then learnt to 
grow—and also he sold coals and paraffin (which 
people burnt in their lamps) and chocolate and 
ginger-beer and other things that were necessary 
to the barbaric housekeeping of the time. He also 
sold cut-flowers and flowers in pots, and seeds and 
sticks and string and weed-killer for the little gar¬ 
dens. His shop stood in a row with a lot of other 
shops; the row was like a row of the ordinary houses 
with the lower rooms taken out and replaced by the 
shop, and he ‘made his living’ and ours by buying 
his goods as cheaply as he could and getting as much 
as he could for them. It was a very poor living 
because there were several other able-bodied men in 
Cherry Gardens who were also greengrocers, and if 
he took too much profit then his customers would 
go away and buy from these competitors and he 
would get no profit at all. 

“I and my brother and sisters—for my mother 
had been unable to avoid having six babies and four 



of us were alive—lived by and in and round about 
this shop. In the summer we were chiefly out of 
doors or in the room above the shop; but in the 
cold weather it cost too much trouble and money to 
have a fire in that room—all Cherry Gardens was 
heated by open coal fires—and we went down into 
a dark underground kitchen where my mother, poor 
dear! cooked according to her lights.” 

“You were troglodytes!” said Willow. 

“Practically. We always ate in that downstairs 
room. In the summer we were sunburnt and ruddy, 
but in the winter, because of this—inhumation, we 
became white and rather thin. I had an elder 
brother who was monstrous in my childish memory; 
he was twelve years older than I; and I had two 
sisters, Fanny and Prudence. My elder brother 
Ernest went out to work, and then he went away 
to London and I saw very little of him until I too 
went to London. I was the youngest of the lot; 
and when I was nine years old, my father, taking 
courage, turned my mother’s perambulator into a 
little push-cart for delivering sacks of coals and 
suchlike goods. 

“Fanny, my elder sister, was a very pretty girl, 
with a white face from which her brown hair went 
back in graceful, natural waves and curls, and she 
had very dark blue eyes. Prudence was also white 
but of a duller whiteness, and her eyes were grey. 
She would tease me and interfere with me, but 
Fanny was either negligent or gracefully kind to me 
and I adored her. I do not, strangely enough, re¬ 
member my mother’s appearance at all distinctly, 
though she was, of course, the dominant fact of my 



childish life. She was too familiar, I suppose, for 
the sort of attention that leaves a picture on the 

“I learnt to speak from my family and chiefly 
from my mother. None of us spoke well; our com¬ 
mon idioms were poor and bad, we mispronounced 
many words, and long words we avoided as some¬ 
thing dangerous and pretentious. I had very few 
toys: a tin railway-engine I remember, some metal 
soldiers, and an insufficient supply of wooden build¬ 
ing-bricks. There was no special place for me to 
play, and if I laid out my toys on the living-room 
table, a meal was sure to descend and sweep them 
away. I remember a great longing to play with the 
things in the shop, and especially with the bundles 
of firewood and some fire-kindlers that were most 
seductively shaped like wdieels, but my father dis¬ 
couraged such ambitions. He did not like to have 
me about the shop until I was old enough to help, 
and the indoor part of most of my days was spent 
in the room above it or in the underground room 
below it. After the shop was closed it became a 
very cold, cavernous, dark place to a little boy’s 
imagination; there were dreadful shadows in which 
terrible things might lurk, and even holding fast to 
my mother’s hand on my way to bed, I was filled 
with fear to traverse it. It had always a faint, un¬ 
pleasant smell, a smell of decaying vegetation vary¬ 
ing with the particular fruit or vegetable that was 
most affected, and a constant element of paraffin. 
But on Sundays when it was closed all day the shop 
was different, no longer darkly threatening but very, 
very still. I would be taken through it on my way 



to church or Sunday school. (Yes—I will tell you 
about church and Sunday school in a minute.) 
When I saw my mother lying dead—she died when 
I was close upon sixteen—I was instantly reminded 
of the Sunday shop. . . . 

“Such, my dear Sunray, was the home in which I 
found myself. I seemed to have been there since 
my beginning. It was the deepest dream I have 
ever had. I had forgotten even you.” 


§ 2 

“And how was this casually begotten infant pre¬ 
pared for the business of life?” asked Radiant. 
“Was he sent aw r ay to a Garden?” 

“There were no Children’s Gardens such as we 
know them, in that world,” said Sarnac. “There was 
a place of assembly called an elementary school. 
Thither I was taken, twice daily, by my sister Pru¬ 
dence, after I was six years old. 

“And here again I find it hard to convey to you 
what the reality was like. Our histories tell you of 
the beginning of general education in that distant 
time and of the bitter jealousy felt by the old priest¬ 
hoods and privileged people for the new sort of 
teachers, but they give you no real picture of the 
ill-equipped and understaffed schoolhouses and of 
the gallant work of the underpaid and ill-trained 
men and women who did the first rough popular 
teaching. There was in particular a gaunt dark 
man with a cough who took the older boys, and a 
little freckled woman of thirty or so who fought 
with the lower children, and, I see now, they were 
holy saints. His name I forget, but the little woman 



was called Miss Merrick. They had to handle enor¬ 
mous classes, and they did most of their teaching 
by voice and gesture and chalk upon a blackboard. 
Their equipment was miserable. The only materials 
of which there was enough to go round were a stock 
of dirty reading-books, Bibles, hymn-books, and a 
lot of slabs of slate in frames on which we wrote 
with slate pencils to economise paper. Drawing 
materials we had practically none ; most of us never 
learnt to draw. Yes. Lots of sane adults in that 
old world never learnt to draw even a box. There 
was nothing to count with in that school and no 
geometrical models. There were hardly any pictures 
except a shiny one of Queen Victoria and a sheet 
of animals, and there were very yellow wall-maps of 
Europe and Asia twenty years out of date. We 
learnt the elements of mathematics by recitation. 
We used to stand in rows, chanting a wonderful 
chant called our Tables:— 

“ 'Twn-swun two. 

Twi -stewer four. 

Twi- sfree’r six. 

Twft-sfour’ rate.’ 

“We used to sing—in unison—religious hymns 
for the most part. The school had a second-hand 
piano to guide our howlings. There had been a 
great fuss in Cliffstone and Cherry Gardens when 
this piano was bought. They called it a luxury, 
and pampering the working classes.” 

“Pampering the working classes!” Firefly re¬ 
peated. “I suppose it’s all right. But I’m rather 
at sea.” 



“I can’t explain everything,” said Sarnac. “The 
fact remains that England grudged its own children 
the shabbiest education, and so for the matter of 
fact did every other country. They saw things 
differently in those days. They were still in the 
competitive cave. America, which was a much 
richer country than England, as wealth went then, 
had if possible meaner and shabbier schools for her 
common people. . . . My dear! it was so. I’m 
telling you a story, not explaining the universe. . . . 
And naturally, in spite of the strenuous efforts of 
such valiant souls as Miss Merrick, we children 
learnt little and we learnt it very badly. Most of 
my memories of school are memories of boredom. 
We sat on wooden forms at long, worn, wooden 
desks, rows and rows of us—I can see again all the 
little heads in front of me—and far away was Miss 
Merrick with a pointer trying to interest us in the 
Rivers of England:— 

“Ty. Wear. Teasumber.” 

“Is that what they used to call swearing?” asked 

“No. Only Jogriphy. And History was:— 

“Wi-yum the Conqueror. Tessisstysiss. 

Wi-yum Ruefiss. Ten eighty-seven.” 

“What did it mean?” 

“To us children? Very much what it means 
to you—gibberish. The hours, those interminable 
hours of childhood in school! How they dragged! 
Did I say I lived a life in my dream? In school 
I lived eternities. Naturally we sought such amuse- 



ment as was possible. One thing was to give your 
next-door neighbour a pinch or a punch and say, 
‘Pass it on.’ And we played furtive games with, 
marbles. It is rather amusing to recall that I learnt 
to count, to add and subtract and so forth, by play¬ 
ing marbles in despite of discipline.” 

“But was that the best your Miss Merrick and 
your saint with the cough could do?” asked Radiant. 

“Oh! they couldn’t help themselves. They were 
in a machine, and there were periodic Inspectors and 
examinations to see that they kept in it.” 

“But,” said Sunray, “that Incantation about 
‘Wi-yum the Conqueror’ and the rest of it. It 
meant something? At the back of it, lost to sight 
perhaps, there was some rational or semi-rational 

“Perhaps,” reflected Sarnac. “But I never de¬ 
tected it.” 

“They called it history,” said Firefly helpfully. 

“They did,” Sarnac admitted. “Yes, I think they 
were trying to interest the children of the land in 
the doings of the Kings and Queens of England, 
probably as dull a string of monarchs as the world 
has ever seen. If they rose to interest at times it 
was through a certain violence; there was one de¬ 
lightful Henry VIII with such a craving for love 
and such a tender conscience about the sanctity of 
marriage that he always murdered one wife before 
he took another. And there was one Alfred who 
burnt some cakes—I never knew why. In some way 
it embarrassed the Danes, his enemies.” 

“But was that all the history they taught you?” 
cried Sunray. 



"Queen Elizabeth of England wore a ruff and 
James the First of England and Scotland kissed his 
men favourites.” 

“But history!” 

Sarnac laughed. “It is odd. I see that—now 
that I am awake again. But indeed that was all 
they taught us.” 

“Did they tell you nothing of the beginnings of 
life and the ends of life, of its endless delights and 

Sarnac shook his head. 

“Not at school,” said Starlight, who evidently 
knew her books; “they did that at church. Sarnac 
forgets the churches. It was, you must remember, 
an age of intense religious activity. There were 
places of worship everywhere. One whole day in 
every seven was given up to the Destinies of Man 
and the study of God’s Purpose. The worker ceased 
from his toil. From end to end of the land the air 
was full of the sound of church bells and of con¬ 
gregations singing. Wasn’t there a certain beauty 
in that, Sarnac?” 

Sarnac reflected and smiled. “It wasn’t quite like 
that,” he said. “Our histories, in that matter, need 
a little revision.” 

“But one sees the churches and chapels in the old 
photographs and cinema pictures. And we still have 
many of their cathedrals. And some of those are 
quite beautiful.” 

“And they have all had to be shored up and under¬ 
pinned and tied together with steel,” said Sunray, 
“because they were either so carelessly or so faith- 


lessly built. And anyhow, these were not built in 
Sarnac’s time.” 

“Mortimer Smith’s time,” Sarnac corrected. 
“They were built hundreds of years earlier than 

§ 3 

“You must not judge the religion of an age by 
its temples and churches,” said Sarnac. “An un¬ 
healthy body may have many things in it that it 
cannot clear away, and the weaker it is the less it 
can prevent abnormal and unserviceable growths. 
. . . Which sometimes may be in themselves quite 
bright and beautiful growths. 

“But let me describe to you the religious life of 
my home and upbringing. There was a sort of State 
Church in England, but it had lost most of its offi¬ 
cial standing in regard to the community as a whole; 
it had two buildings in Cherry Gardens—one an old 
one dating from the hamlet days with a square 
tower and rather small as churches went, and the 
other new and spacious with a spire. In addition 
there were the chapels of two other Christian com¬ 
munities, the Congregationalists and the Primitive 
Methodists, and also one belonging to the old 
Roman Catholic communion. Each professed to 
present the only true form of Christianity and each 
maintained a minister, except the larger Church of 
England place, which had two, the vicar and the 
curate. You might suppose that, like the museums 
of history and the Temples of Vision we set before 
our young people, these places would display in the 
most moving and beautiful forms possible the his- 



tory of our race and the great adventure of life in 
which we are all engaged, they would remind us of 
our brotherhood and lift us out of selfish thoughts. 
. . . But let me tell you how I saw it:— 

“I don’t remember my first religious instruction. 
Very early I must have learnt to say a rhymed 
prayer to— 

“ ‘Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, 

Look on me, a little child.’ 

And also another prayer about ‘Trespassing’ which 
I thought referred to going into fields or woods 
where there was no public footpath, and which 
began with the entirely incomprehensible words, 
“Our Father Charting Heaven, Haloed B thy Name.’ 
Also one asked for one’s ‘daily bread’ and that God’s 
Kingdom should come. I learnt these two prayers 
from my mother at an incredibly early age, and said 
them every night and sometimes in the morning. 
She held these words in far too great reverence to 
explain them, and when I wanted to ask for my 
‘daily bread and butter,’ she scolded me bitterly. 
I also wanted to ask what would happen to good 
Queen Victoria w T hen God’s Kingdom came, but I 
never mustered courage to ask my mother that. I 
had a curious idea that there could be a marriage 
but that nobody had thought of that solution. This 
must have been very early in my life, because Vic¬ 
toria the Good died when I was five, during the 
course of a long, far-away, and now almost-forgotten 
struggle called the Boer War. 

“These infantile perplexities deepened and then 
gave w T ay to a kind of self-protective apathy when 


I was old enough to go to church and Sunday 

“Sunday morning was by far the most strenuous 
part of all the week for my mother. We had all 
had a sort of bath overnight in the underground 
kitchen, except my father and mother, who I don’t 
think ever washed all over—I don’t know for certain 
—and on Sunday morning we rose rather later than 
usual and put on our ‘clean things’ and our best 
clothes. (Everybody in those days wore a frightful 
lot of clothes. You see, they were all so unhealthy 
they could not stand the least exposure to wet or 
cold.) Breakfast was a hurried and undistinguished 
meal on the way to greater things. Then we had 
to sit about, keeping out of harm’s way, avoiding 
all crumpling or dirt, and pretending to be interested 
in one of the ten or twelve books our home possessed, 
until church time. Mother prepared the Sunday 
meal, almost always a joint of meat in a baking-dish 
which my elder sister took in to the baker’s next 
door but one to be cooked while we worshipped. 
Father rose later than anyone and appeared strangely 
transformed in a collar, dickey and cuffs and a black 
coat and his hair smoothed down and parted. Usu¬ 
ally some unforeseen delay arose; one of my sisters 
had a hole in her stocking, or my boots wouldn’t 
button and nobody could find the buttonhook, or a 
prayer-book was mislaid. This engendered an at¬ 
mosphere of flurry. There were anxious moments 
when the church bell ceased to ring and began a 
monotonous ‘tolling-in.’ 

“‘Oh! we shall be late again!’ said my mother. 
‘We shall be late again.’ 



“ ‘I’ll go on with Prue!’ my father would say. 

“ ‘Me too!’ said Fanny. 

“ ‘Not till you’ve found that button’ook, Miss 
Huzzy/ my mother would cry. ‘For well I know 
you’ve ’ad it.’ 

“Fanny would shrug her shoulders. 

“ ‘Why ’e carn’t ’ave lace-up shoes to ’is feet like 
any other kid, I carn’t understand,’ my father would 
remark unhelpfully. 

“My mother, ashen white with flurry, would wince 
and say, ‘Lace-up shoes at ’is age! Let alone that 
’e’d break the laces.’ 

“ ‘What’s that on the chiffoneer?’ Fanny would 
ask abruptly. 

“‘Ah! Naturally you know/ 

“ ‘Naturally I use my eyes.’ 

“‘Tcha! Got your answer ready! Oh, you 
wicked girl! ’ ” 

“Fanny would shrug her shoulders again and stare 
out of the window. There was more trouble afoot 
than a mislaid buttonhook between her and my 
mother. Overnight ‘Miss Huzzy’ had been abroad 
long after twilight, a terrible thing from a mother’s 
point of view, as I will make plain to you later. 

“My mother, breathing hard, would button my 
boots in a punitive manner and then off we would 
go, Prue hanging on to father ahead, Fanny a little 
apart and scornful, and I trying to w T riggle my little 
white-cotton-gloved hand out of my mother’s earnest 

“We had what was called a ‘sitting’ at church, a 
long seat with some hassocks and a kind of little 
praying-ledge at the back of the seat in front. We 



filed into our sitting and knelt and rose up, and 
were ready for the function known as morning 

§ 4 

“And this service again was a strange thing. We 
read about these churches and their services in our 
histories and we simplify and idealise the picture; 
we take everything in the account, as we used to 
say in that old world, at its face value. We think 
that the people understood and believed completely 
the curious creeds of those old-world religions; that 
they worshipped with a simple ardour; that they 
had in their hearts a secret system of comforts and 
illusions which some of us even now try to recover. 
But life is always more complicated than any ac¬ 
count or representation of it can be. The human 
mind in those days was always complicating and 
overlaying its ideas, forgetting primary in secondary 
considerations, substituting repetition and habit for 
purposive acts, and forgetting and losing its initial 
intentions. Life has grown simpler for men as the 
ages have passed because it has grown clearer. We 
were more complicated in our lives then because 
we were more confused. And so we sat in our pews 
on Sunday, in a state of conforming inattention, 
not really thinking out what we were doing, feeling 
rather than knowing significances and with our 
thoughts wandering like water from a leaky vessel. 
We watched the people about us furtively and mi¬ 
nutely and we were acutely aware that they watched 
us. We stood up, we half knelt, we sat, as the ritual 
of the service required us to do. I can still recall 
quite vividly the long complex rustle of the con- 


gregation as it sat down or rose up in straggling 

“This morning service was a mixture of prayers 
and recitations by the priests—vicar and curate we 
called them—and responses by the congregation, 
chants, rhymed hymns, the reading of passages from 
the Hebrew-Christian Bible, and at last a discourse. 
Except for this discourse all the service followed a 
prescribed course set out in a prayer-book. We 
hopped from one page of the prayer-book to another, 
and 'finding your place’ was a terrible mental exer¬ 
cise for a small boy with a sedulous mother on one 
side and Prue on the other. 

“The service began lugubriously and generally 
it was lugubrious. We were all miserable sinners, 
there was no health in us; w T e expressed our mild 
surprise that our Deity did not resort to violent 
measures against us. There was a long part called 
the Litany in which the priest repeated with con¬ 
siderable gusto every possible human misfortune, 
war, pestilence, famine, and so on, and the congre¬ 
gation interjected at intervals, 'Good Lord deliver 
us!’ although you might have thought that these 
were things within the purview of our international 
and health and food administrators rather than 
matters for the Supreme Being. Then the officiating 
priest went on to a series of prayers for the Queen, 
the rulers of the State, heretics, unfortunate people, 
travellers, and the harvest, all of which I concluded 
were being dangerously neglected by Divine Provi¬ 
dence, and the congregation reinforced the priest’s 
efforts by salvos of ‘We beseech Thee to hear us, 
Good Lord.’ The hymns were of very variable 



quality, but the greater part were effusive praises 
of our Maker, with frequent false rhymes and bad 
quantities. We thanked Heaven for our ‘blessings/ 
and that without a thought of irony. Yet you would 
imagine that a Deity of Infinite Power might easily 
have excused our gratitude for the precarious little 
coal and greengrocery business in Cherry Gardens 
and all my mother’s toil and anxieties and my 
father’s worries. 

“The general effect of this service beneath its 
surface adulation of the worshipped God, was to 
blame Him thoroughly and completely for every 
human misfortune and to deny the responsibility 
of mankind for its current muddle and wretchedness. 
Throughout the land and throughout most of the 
world, Sunday after Sunday, by chant and hymn 
and prayer and gesture, it was being dinned into 
the minds of young people, whenever for a moment 
the service broke through the surface of their pro¬ 
tective instinctive inattention, that mankind w T as 
worthless and hopeless, the helpless plaything of a 
moody, impulsive, vain, and irresistible Being. This 
rain of suggestion came between their minds and 
the Sun of Life; it hid the Wonderful from them; 
it robbed them of access to the Spirit of Courage. 
But so alien was this doctrine of abasement from 
the heart of man, that for the most part the con¬ 
gregation sat or stood or knelt in rows in its pews 
repeating responses and singing mechanically, with 
its minds distracted to a thousand distant more 
congenial things, watching the deportment of its 
neighbours, scheming about business or pleasure, 
w r andering in reverie. 



“There would come at times into this service, 
sometimes but not always, parts of another service, 
the Communion Service. This was the reduced re¬ 
mainder of that Catholic Mass of which we have all 
learnt in our histories. As you know, the world of 
Christianity was still struggling, nineteen hundred 
years after Christianity had begun, to get rid of the 
obsession of a mystical blood sacrifice, to forget a 
traditional killing of a God-man, that was as old as 
agriculture and the first beginnings of human settle¬ 
ment. The English State Church was so much a 
thing of compromise and tradition that in the two 
churches it had in Cherry Gardens the teaching upon 
this issue was diametrically opposed; one, the new 
and showy one, St. Jude’s, was devoted to an exag¬ 
geration of the importance of the Communion, called 
it the Mass, called the table on which it was cele¬ 
brated the Altar, called the Rev. Mr. Snapes the 
Priest, and generally emphasised the ancient pagan 
interpretation, while the other, the little old church 
of St. Osyth, called its priest a Minister, its altar 
the Lord’s Table, and the Communion the Lord’s 
Supper, denied all its mystical importance, and made 
it merely a memorial of the life and death of the 
Master. These age-long controversies between the 
immemorial temple worship of our race and the new 
life of intellectual and spiritual freedom that had 
then been dawning in the world for three or four 
centuries were far above my poor little head as I 
fretted and 'behaved myself’ in our sitting. To my 
youthful mind the Communion Service meant noth¬ 
ing more than a long addition to the normal tediums 
of worship. In those days I had a pathetic belief 



in the magic of prayer, and oblivious of the unflat¬ 
tering implications of my request I would whisper 
throughout the opening prayers and recitations of 
the morning: Tray God there won’t be a Com¬ 
munion Service. Pray God there won’t be a Com¬ 
munion Service.’ 

“Then would come the sermon, the original com¬ 
position of the Rev. Mr. Snapes, and the only thing 
in the whole service that was not set and prescribed 
and that had not been repeated a thousand times 

“Mr. Snapes was a youngish pinkish man with 
pinkish golden hair and a clean-shaven face; he had 
small chubby features like a cluster of champignons, 
an expression of beatific self-satisfaction, and a 
plump voice. He had a way of throwing back the 
ample white sleeve of his surplice when he turned 
the pages of his manuscript, a sort of upthrow of 
the posed white hand, that aroused in me one of 
the inexplicable detestations of childhood. I used 
to hate this gesture, watch for its coming and squirm 
when it came. 

“The sermons were so much above my head that 
I cannot now tell what any of them were about. 
He would talk of things like the 'Comfort of the 
Blessed Eucharist’ and the ‘Tradition of the Fathers 
of the Church.’ He would discourse too of what 
he called the Feasts of the Church, though a collec¬ 
tion plate was the nearest approach to feasting we 
saw. He made much of Advent and Epiphany and 
Whitsuntide, and he had a common form of transi¬ 
tion to modern considerations, ‘And we too, dear 
Brethren, in these latter days have our Advents 



and our Epiphanies.’ Then he would pass to King 
Edward’s proposed visit to Lowcliffe or to the recent 
dispute about the Bishop of Natal or the Bishop 
of Zanzibar. You cannot imagine how remote it 
was from anything of moment in our normal lives. 

“And then suddenly, when a small boy was losing 
all hope of this smooth voice ever ceasing, came a 
little pause and then the blessed words of release: 
‘And now to God the Father, God the Son-’ 

“It was over! There was a stir throughout the 
church. We roused ourselves, we stood up. Then 
we knelt for a brief moment of apparent prayer 
and then we scrabbled for hats, coats, and umbrel¬ 
las, and so out into the open air, a great pattering 
of feet upon the pavement, dispersing this way and 
that, stiff greetings of acquaintances, Prue to the 
baker’s for the Sunday dinner and the rest of us 
straight home. 

“Usually there were delightful brown potatoes 
under the Sunday joint and perhaps there would 
be a fruit pie also. But in the spring came rhubarb, 
which I hated. It was held to be peculiarly good 
for me, and I was always compelled to eat excep¬ 
tionally large helpings of rhubarb tart. 

“In the afternoon there was Sunday school or else 
‘Children’s Service,’ and, relieved of the presence 
of our parents, we three children went to the school- 
house or to the church again to receive instruction 
in the peculiarities of our faith. In the Sunday 
school untrained and unqualified people whom we 
knew in the week-days as shop assistants and an 
auctioneer’s clerk and an old hairy deaf gentleman 
named Spendilow, collected us in classes and dis- 



coursed to us on the ambiguous lives and doings 
of King David of Israel and of Abraham, Isaac, 
and Jacob and the misbehaviour of Queen Jezebel 
and the like topics. And we sang easy hymns in 
unison. At times our teachers spoke of the Master 
of Mankind, but they spoke without understanding ; 
they spoke of him as a sort of trickster who worked 
miracles and achieved jail delivery from the tomb. 
And so had ‘saved’ us—in spite of the manifest fact 
that we were anything but saved. The teaching of 
the Master was, you know, buried under these tales 
of Resurrection and Miracles for two thousand years. 
He was a light shining in the darkness and the dark¬ 
ness knew it not. And of the great past of life, of 
the races of men and their slow growth in knowledge, 
of fears and dark superstitions and the dawning vic¬ 
tories of truth, of the conquest and sublimation of 
human passions through the ages, of the divinity 
of research and discovery, of the latent splendour 
of our bodies and senses, and the present dangers 
and possibilities amidst which the continually more 
crowded masses of our race were then blundering 
so tragically and yet with such bright gleams of hope 
and promise, we heard no talk at all. We were given 
no intimation that there was so much as a human 
community with a common soul and an ultimate 
common destiny. It would have been scandalous 
and terrifying to those Sunday-school teachers to 
have heard any such things spoken about in Sunday 

“And mind you,” said Sarnac, “there was no bet¬ 
ter preparation for life in all the world then than 
the sort of thing I was getting. The older church 



of St. Osyth was in the hands of the Rev. Thomas 
Benderton, who dispersed a dwindling congregation 
by bellowing sermons full of the threat of hell. He 
had scared my mother to the church of St. Jude by 
his frequent mention of the devil, and the chief topic 
of his discourse was the sin of idolatry; he treated it 
always with especial reference to the robes adopted 
by Mr. Snapes when he celebrated Holy Communion 
and to something obscure that he did with small 
quantities of bread and wine upon his Communion 

“Of what the Congregationalists and the Primitive 
Methodists did and taught in their places of resort, 
their chapels and Sunday schools, I do not know 
very exactly, because my mother would have been 
filled with a passion of religious terror if ever I had 
gone near those assemblies. But I know that their 
procedure was only a plainer version of our church 
experiences with still less of the Mass and still more 
of the devil. The Primitive Methodists, I know, 
laid their chief stress upon the belief that the greater 
portion of mankind, when once they had done with 
the privations and miseries of this life, would be 
tortured exquisitely for ever and ever in hell. I got 
this very clearly because a Primitive Methodist 
boy a little older than myself conveyed his anxieties 
to me one day when we had gone for a walk into 

“He was a bent sort of boy with a sniff and he 
wore a long white woollen comforter; there hasn’t 
been such a figure in the world now for hundreds 
of years. We walked along the promenade that 
followed the cliff edge, by the bandstand and by 



the people lounging in deck-chairs. There were 
swarms of people in their queer holiday clothes, and 
behind, rows of the pallid grey houses in which they 
lodged. And my companion bore his testimony. 
'Mr. Molesly ’e says that the Day of Judgment 
might ■ come any minute—come in fire and glory 
before ever we get to the end of these Leas. And 
all them people’d be tried. . . .’ 

“ 'Jest as they are?’ 

" 'Jest as they are. That woman there with the 
dog and that fat man asleep in ’is chair and—the 

"He paused, a little astonished at the Hebraic 
daring of his thoughts. 'The policeman,’ he re¬ 
peated. ‘They’d be weighed and found wanting, 
and devils would come and torture them. Torture 
that policeman. Burn him and cut him about. And 
everybody. Horrible, horrible torture. . . 

"I had never heard the doctrines of Christianity 
applied with such particularity before. I was dis¬ 

" 'I sh’d ’ide,’ I said. 

" ' ’E ’d see you. ’E’d see you and tell the devils,’ 
said my little friend. ' ’E sees the wicked thoughts 
in us now. . . .’ ” 

"But did people really believe such stuff as that?” 
cried Sunray. 

"As far as they believed anything,” said Sarnac. 
"I admit it was frightful, but so it was. Do you 
realise what cramped, distorted minds grew up 
under such teaching in our under-nourished, infected 



“Few people could have really believed so gro¬ 
tesque a fairy-tale as hell,” said Radiant. 

“More people believed than you would think,” 
said Sarnac. “Few people, of course, held it actively 
for long—or they would have gone mad—but it 
was in the background of a lot of minds. And the 
others? The effect of this false story about the 
world upon the majority of minds was a sort of 
passive rejection. They did not deny, but they 
refused to incorporate the idea with the rest of their 
thoughts. A kind of dead place, a scar, was made 
just where there ought to have been a sense of 
human destiny, a vision of life beyond the imme¬ 
diate individual life . . . 

“I find it hard to express the state of mind into 
which one grew. The minds of the young had been 
outraged by these teachings; they were no longer 
capable of complete mental growth, a possibility 
had been destroyed. Perhaps we never did really 
take into ourselves and believe that grotesque fairy¬ 
tale, as you call it, about hell but, because of what 
it had done to our minds, we grew up without a liv¬ 
ing faith and without a purpose. The nucleus of our 
religious being was this suppressed fear of hell. Few 
of us ever had it out fairly into the light of day. It 
was considered to be bad taste to speak of any such 
things, or indeed of any of the primaries of life, 
either by way of belief or denial. You might allude 
circuitously. Or joke. Most of the graver advances 
in life were made under a mask of facetiousness. 

“Mentally that world in the days of Mortimer 
Smith was a world astray. It was astray like a lost 
dog and with no idea of direction. It is true that 



the men of that time were very like the men of this 
time—in their possibilities—but they were un¬ 
healthy in mind as well as body, they were adrift 
and incoherent. Walking as we do in the light, and 
by comparison simply and directly, their confusion, 
the tortuous perplexity of their thoughts and con¬ 
duct, is almost inconceivable to us. There is no sort 
of mental existence left in our world now, to which 
it can be compared.” 

§ 5 

“I think I mentioned the line of hills, the Downs 
that bounded the world of my upbringing to the 
north. What lay beyond them was a matter for 
wonder and speculation to me long before I was 
able to clamber to their crests. In summer time 
the sun set behind them to the north-west, often 
in a glow of gold and splendour, and I remember 
that among my fancies was a belief that the Day 
of Judgment was over there and that Celestial City 
to which Mr. Snapes would some day lead us—in 
procession, of course, and with a banner. 

“My first ascent of this childhood’s boundary 
must have occurred when I was eight or nine. I 
do not remember with whom I went or any other 
particulars, but I have a very acute memory of my 
disappointment at looking down a long, very gentle 
slope and seeing nothing but fields and hedges and 
groups of large sheep feeding. What I had expected 
to find I cannot now remember. I seem to have 
noted only the foreground then, and it must have 
been after many such excursions that I began to 
realise the variegated spaciousness of the country to 



the north. The view indeed went very far; on a 
clear day we saw blue hills nearly twenty miles 
away; there w T ere woodlands and parklands, brown 
ridges of plough-land that became golden ridges of 
corn in summer time, village churches amidst clus¬ 
tering greenery, and the gleaming of ponds and lakes. 
Southward the horizon lifted as the Downs were 
ascended and the breadth of the sea-belt increased. 
It was my father who drew my attention to that, 
on the first occasion of our crossing the Downs 

“ ‘Go as ’igh as you like, ’Any/ he said, ‘and the 
sea goes up as ’igh. There it is, you see—level 
with us and we ever so ’igh above Cherry Gardens. 
And yet it don’t drown’d Cherry Gardens! And 
why don’t it drown’d Cherry Gardens seeing that 
it might? Tell me that, ’Any/ 

“I couldn’t. 

“ ‘Providence,’ said my father triumphantly. 
Providence does it. ’Olds back the sea, Thus Far. 
And over there, see ’ow plain it is! is France.’ 

“I saw France and it was exceptionally plain. 

“ ‘Sometimes you see France and sometimes you 
don’t,’ said my father. ‘There’s a lesson in that too, 
my boy, for those who care to take it.’ 

“It had always been the custom of my father to 
go out after tea on Sundays, summer and winter 
alike, and walk right over the Downs to Chessing 
Hanger, six miles and more away. He went, I 
knew, to see my Uncle John, Uncle John Julip, 
my mother’s brother, who was gardener to Lord 
Bramble of Chessing Hanger Park. But it was only 
when he began to take me with him that I realised 



that these walks had any other motive than fraternal 
(in law) affection and the natural desire of a pent-up 
shopkeeper for exercise. But from the first journey 
on I knew that the clue to these expeditions lay 
in the burthens with which we returned to Cherry 
Gardens. Always there was supper in the cosy little 
gardener’s cottage, and always as we departed we 
picked up an unobtrusive load of flowers, fruit or 
vegetables, celery, peas, aubergines, mushrooms or 
what-not, and returned through the dusk or moon¬ 
light or darkness or drizzle as the season and the 
weather might determine to the little shop. And 
sometimes my father would be silent or whistle 
softly and sometimes he would improve our journey 
with a discourse on the wonders of nature, the 
beauty of goodness, and the beneficence of Provi¬ 
dence to man. 

“He talked of the moon one moonlight night. 
‘Look at it, ’Arry,’ he said—‘a dead world. Like 
a skull it is, up there, stripped of its soul which is 
its flesh so to speak and all its trees, which, if you 
take me, were its ’air and its whiskers—stripped 
and dead for ever and ever. Dry as a bone. And 
everyone who lived there gone too. Dust and ashes 
and gone.’ 

“ ‘Where they gone, farver?’ I would ask. 

“ ‘Gorn to their judgment,’ he would explain with 
gusto. ‘Kings and greengroshers, all the lot of ’em, 
tried and made sheep and goats of, and gone to their 
bliss or their sufferings, ’Arry. According to their 
iniquities. Weighed and found wanting.’ 

“Long pause. 

“ ‘It’s a pity,’ he said. 



“ ‘What is, farver?’ 

“ ‘Pity it’s over. It ’ud be something to look at, 
them running about up there. Friendly-like it ’ud 
bo. But that’s questioning the ways of Providence, 
that is. I suppose we’d be always staring up and 
falling over things. ... You never see a thing in 
this world, ’Arry, that you think isn’t right but what 
when you come to think it out it isn’t wiser than 
you knew. Providence is as deep as E is I and you 
can’t get be’ind ’im. And don’t go banging them 
pears against your side, my boy; they’m Wi’yums, 
and they won’t like it.’ 

“About the curious habits of animals and the 
ways and migrations of birds my father would also 
talk very freely. 

“ ‘Me and you, ’Arry, we walk by the light of 
reason. We ’ave reasonable minds given us to do 
it with. But animals and birds and worms and 
things, they live by Instink; they jus’ feel they 
’ave to do this or that and they do it. It’s Instink 
keeps the whale in the sea and the bird in the air; 
but we go where our legs carry us as reason ’as 
directed. You can’t ask an animal Why did you 
do this? or Why did you do that?—you just ’it it; 
but a man you ask and ’e ’as to answer, being a 
reasonable creature. That’s why we ’as jails and 
punishment and are answerable for our sins, ’Arry. 
Every sin we ’as to answer for, great or small. But 
an animal don’t ’ave to answer. It’s innocent. You 
’it it or else you leave it be. . . .’ 

“My father thought for a time. ‘Except for dogs 
and some old cats.’ he said. He mused among his 


memories for a time. ‘I’ve known some sinful cats, 
’Arry,’ he said. 

“He would enlarge on the wonders of instinct. 

“He would explain how swallows and starlings and 
storks and such-like birds were driven by instinct 
thousands of miles, getting drowned on the way and 
dashed to pieces against lighthouses. ‘Else they’d 
freeze and starve where they was, ’Arry,’ said my 
father. And every bird knew by instinct what sort 
of nest it had to build, no one ever showing it or 
telling it. Kangaroos carried their young in pouches 
by instinct, but man being a reasonable creature 
made perambulators. Chickens ran about by in¬ 
stinct directly they were born; not like human 
children, who had to be carried and taken care of 
until reason came. And jolly lucky that was for 
the chicken, ‘For ’ow a ’en w r ould carry them,’ said 
my father, ‘I carn’t imagine.’ 

“I remember that I put my father into a difficulty 
by asking him why Providence had not given birds 
an instinct against beating themselves against light¬ 
houses and moths against the gas-jet and the candle- 
flame. For in the room over the shop on a summer’s 
night it was quite unpleasant to read a book because 
of the disabled flies and moths that fell scorched 
upon its pages. ‘It’s to teach ’em some lesson,’ said 
my father at last. ‘But what it’s to teach them, 
’Arry, I don’t rightly know.’ 

“And sometimes he would talk, with illustrative 
stories, of ill-gotten gold never staying with the 
getter, and sometimes he w T ould talk of murders— 
for there were still many murders in the world—and 
how they always came out, ‘hide them as you may.’ 



And always he was ready to point out the goodness 
and wisdom, the cleverness, forethought, ingenuity, 
and kindliness of Providence in the most earnest and 
flattering manner. 

“With such high discourse did we enliven our 
long trudges between Cherry Gardens and Chessing 
Hanger, and my father’s tone was always so exalted 
that with a real shock I presently came to realise 
that every Sunday evening we were in plain English 
stealing and receiving stolen produce from Lord 
Bramble’s gardens. Indeed, I cannot imagine how 
we should have got along without that weekly raid. 
Our little home at Cherry Gardens was largely sup¬ 
ported by my father’s share in the profits of these 
transactions. When the produce was too good and 
costly for Cherry Gardens’ needs, he would take it 
down to Cliffstone and sell it to a friend there who 
had a fashionable trade.” 

Sarnac paused. 

“Go on,” said Radiant. “You are making us 
believe in your story. It sounds more and more 
as if you had been there. It is so circumstantial. 
Who was this Lord Bramble? I have always been 
curious about Lords.” 

§ 6 

“Let me tell my story in my own way,” said Sar¬ 
nac. “If I answer questions I shall get lost. You 
are all ready to ask a hundred questions already 
about things I have mentioned and points familiar 
to me but incomprehensible to you because our 
world has forgotten them, and if I weaken towards 
you you will trail me away and away further and 



further from my father and my Uncle Julip. We 
shall just talk about manners and customs and about 
philosophy and history. I want to tell my story.” 

“Go on with your story,” said Sunray. 

“This. Uncle John Julip of mine, although he was 
my mother’s brother, was a cynical, opinionated 
man. He was very short and fatter than was usual 
among gardeners. He had a smooth white face and 
a wise, self-satisfied smile. To begin with, I saw 
him only on Sundays and in white shirt sleeves and 
a large straw hat. He made disparaging remarks 
about my physique and about the air of Cherry 
Gardens every time he saw me. His wife had been 
a dissenter of some sort and had become a church- 
woman under protest. She too was white-faced and 
her health was bad. She complained of pains. But 
my Uncle John Julip disparaged her pains because 
he said they were not in a reasonable place. There 
was stomachache and backache and heartburn and 
the wind, but her pains were neither here nor there; 
they were therefore pains of the imagination and 
had no claim upon our sympathy. 

“When I was nearly thirteen years old my father 
and uncle began planning for me to go over to the 
dressing Hanger gardens and be an under-gardener. 
This was a project I disliked very greatly; not only 
did I find my uncle unattractive, but I thought 
weeding and digging and most of the exercises of 
a garden extremely tiring and boring. I had taken 
very kindly to reading, I liked languages, I inherited 
something of my father’s loquaciousness, and I had 
won a special prize for an essay in my school. This 
had fired the most unreasonable ambitions in me— 



to write, to write in newspapers, possibly even to 
write books. At Cliffstone was what was called a 
public library to which the householders of Cliff- 
stone had access and from which members of their 
families could borrow books—during holidays I 
would be changing my book almost every day—but 
at Chessing Hanger there were no books at all. My 
sister Fanny encouraged me in my reading; she too 
was a voracious reader of novels, and she shared my 
dislike of the idea that I should become a gardener. 

“In those days, you must understand, no attempt 
was made to gauge the natural capacity of a child. 
Human beings were expected to be grateful for any 
opportunity of ‘getting a living.’ Parents bundled 
their children into any employment that came 
handy, and so most people followed occupations 
that were misfits, that did not give full scope for 
such natural gifts as they possessed and which com¬ 
monly cramped or crippled them. This in itself 
diffused a vague discontent throughout the com¬ 
munity, and inflicted upon the great majority of 
people strains and restraints and suppressions that 
ate away their possibility of positive happiness. 
Most youngsters as they grew up, girls as well as 
boys, experienced a sudden tragic curtailment of 
freedom and discovered themselves forced into some 
unchosen specific drudgery from which it was very 
difficult to escape. One summer holiday came, 
when, instead of enjoying delightful long days of 
play and book-devouring in Cliffstone, as I had 
hitherto done, I was sent off over the hills to stay 
with Uncle John Julip, and ‘see how I got on’ with 
him. I still remember the burning disgust, the sense 


of immolation, with which I lugged my little valise 
up the hills and over the Downs to the gardens. 

“This Lord Bramble, Radiant, was one of the 
landlords who were so important during the reigns 
of the Hanoverian Kings up to the time of Queen 
Victoria the Good. They owned large areas of 
England as private property; they could do what 
they liked with it. In the days of Victoria the Good 
and her immediate predecessors these landlords who 
had ruled the Empire through the House of Lords 
made a losing fight for predominance against the 
new industrialists, men who employed great masses 
of people for their private gain in the iron and steel 
industries, cotton and wool, beer and shipping, and 
these again gave way to a rather different type who 
developed advertisement and a political and finan¬ 
cial use of newspapers and new methods of finance. 
The old land-holding families had to adapt them¬ 
selves to the new powers or be pushed aside. Lord 
Bramble was one of those pushed aside, an indig¬ 
nant, old-fashioned, impoverished landowner. He 
was in a slough of debts. His estates covered many 
square miles; he owned farms and woodlands, a 
great white uncomfortable house, far too roomy for 
his shrunken means, and two square miles of park. 
The park was greatly neglected, it was covered with 
groups of old trees infested and rotten with fungus; 
rabbits and moles abounded, and thistles and nettles. 
There were no young trees there at all. The fences 
and gates were badly patched; and here and there 
ran degenerating roads. But boards threatening tres¬ 
passers abounded, and notices saying ‘NO THOR¬ 
OUGHFARE.’ For it was the dearest privilege of 



the British landlord to restrict the free movements 
of ordinary people, and Lord Bramble guarded his 
wilderness with devotion. Great areas of good land 
in England in those days were in a similar state of 
picturesquely secluded dilapidation.” 

“Those were the lands where they did the shoot¬ 
ing,” said Radiant. 

“How did you know?” 

“I have seen a picture. They stood in a line along 
the edge of a copse, with brown-leaved trees and a 
faint smell of decay and a touch of autumnal damp¬ 
ness in the air, and they shot lead pellets at birds.” 

“They did. And the beaters—I was pressed into 
that service once or twice—drove the birds, the 
pheasants, towards them. Shooting parties used to 
come to Chessing Hanger, and the shooting used to 
go on day after day. It was done with tremendous 

“But why?” asked Willow. 

“Yes,” said Radiant. “Why did men do it?” 

“I don’t know,” said Sarnac. “All I know is that 
at certain seasons of the year the great majority 
of the gentlemen of England who were supposed to 
be the leaders and intelligence of the land, who were 
understood to guide its destinies and control its 
future, went out into the woods or on the moors 
to massacre birds of various sorts with guns, birds 
bred specially at great expense for the purpose of 
this slaughter. These noble sportsmen were mar¬ 
shalled by gamekeepers; they stood in rows, the 
landscape was animated with the popping of their 
guns. The highest in the land participated gravely 
in this national function and popped with distinc- 



tion. The men of this class were in truth at just 
that level above imbecility where the banging of a 
gun and the thrill of seeing a bird swirl and drop 
is inexhaustibly amusing. They never tired of it. 
The bang of the gun seems to have been essential 
to the sublimity of the sensations of these sportsmen. 
It wasn’t mere killing, because in that case these 
people could also have assisted in killing the sheep 
and oxen and pigs required by the butchers, but 
this sport they left to men of an inferior social class. 
Shooting birds on the wing was the essential idea. 
When Lord Bramble was not killing pheasants or 
grouse he shot in the south of France at perplexed 
pigeons with clipped wings just let out of traps. Or 
he hunted—not real animal hunting, not a fair fight 
with bear or tiger or elephant in a jungle, but the 
chasing of foxes—small stinking red animals about 
the size of water-spaniels, which were sedulously 
kept from extinction for this purpose of hunting; 
they were hunted across cultivated land, and the 
hunters rode behind a pack of dogs. Lord Bramble 
dressed himself up with extreme care in a red jacket 
and breeches of pigskin to do this. For the rest of 
his time the good man played a card game called 
bridge, so limited and mechanical that anyone now¬ 
adays would be able to read out the results and exact 
probabilities of every deal directly he saw his cards. 
There were four sets of thirteen cards each. But 
Lord Bramble, who had never learnt properly to 
count up to thirteen, found it full of dramatic sur¬ 
prises and wonderful sensations. A large part of 
his time was spent in going from race-course to 
race-course; they raced a specially flimsy breed of 



horses in those days. There again he dressed with 
care. In the illustrated papers in the public library 
I would see photographs of Lord Bramble, wiih a 
silk hat—a top hat, you know—cocked very much 
on one side ‘in the Paddock’ or ‘snapped with a 
lady friend.’ There was much betting and know¬ 
ingness about this horse-racing. His Lordship dined 
with comparative intelligence, erring only a little on 
the excessive side with the port. People still smoked 
in those days, and Lord Bramble would consume 
three or four cigars a day. Pipes he thought ple¬ 
beian and cigarettes effeminate. He could read a 
newspaper but not a book, being incapable of sus¬ 
tained attention; after dinner in town he commonly 
went to a theatre or music-hall where women could 
be seen, more or less undraped. The clothing of 
that time filled such people as Lord Bramble with a 
coy covetousness for nakedness. The normal beauty 
of the human body was a secret and a mystery, 
and half the art and decoration of Chessing Hanger 
House played stimulatingly with the forbidden 

“In that past existence of mine I took the way of 
life of Lord Bramble as a matter of course, but now 
that I recall it I begin to see the enormous absurdity 
of these assassins of frightened birds, these sup¬ 
porters of horses and ostlers, these peepers at femi¬ 
nine thighs and shoulder-blades. Their women sym¬ 
pathised with their gunmanship, called their horses 
‘the dears,’ cultivated dwarfed and crippled breeds 
of pet dogs, and yielded the peeps expected of them. 

“Such was the life of the aristocratic sort of people 
in those days. They set the tone of what was con- 



sidered a hard, bright, healthy life. The rest of 
the community admired them greatly and imitated 
them to the best of its ability. The tenant farmer, 
if he could not shoot pheasants, shot rabbits, and 
if he could not bet twenty-pound notes at the 
fashionable race-meeting at Goodwood, put his half- 
crown upon his fancy at the Cliffstone races on 
By ford Downs—w r ith his hat cocked over one eye 
as much like Lord Bramble and King Edward as 

“Great multitudes of people there were whose 
lives were shaped completely by the habits and 
traditions of these leaders. There was my Uncle 
John Julip for example. His father had been a 
gardener and his grandfather before him, and almost 
all his feminine ancestry and his aunts and cousins 
were, as the phrase went, ‘in service.’ None of the 
people round and about the downstairs of Chessing 
Hanger had natural manners; all were dealing in 
some more or less plausible imitation of some real 
lady or gentleman. My Uncle John Julip found his 
ideal in a certain notorious Sir John ffrench-Cuth- 
bertson. He sought similar hats and adopted 
similar attitudes. 

“He bet heavily in imitation of his model, but he 
bet less fortunately. This my aunt resented, but 
she found great comfort in the way in which his 
clothing and gestures under-studied Sir John. 

“ Tf only he’d been born a gentleman,’ said my 
aunt, ‘everything ’ud a-been all right. ’E’s a natural 
sportsman; ’e eats ’is ’eart out in the gardens.’ 

“He certainly did not work his heart out. I do 
not remember ever seeing him dig or carry or wheel 



a barrow. My memory of him in the garden is 
of one who stood, one hand gripping a hoe as if it 
were a riding whip under the tail of his coat, and the 
other gesticulating or pointing out what had to be 

“To my father and myself he was always con¬ 
sciously aristocratic, bearing himself in the grand 
manner. This he did, although my father was a 
third as tall again as he was and far more abundantly 
intelligent. He always called my father ‘Smith.’ 

“ ‘What are you going to do with that boy, Smith?’ 
he would ask. ‘Seems to me, wants feedin’ up and 
open air.’ 

“My father, who secretly shared the general view 
that my Uncle John under happier stars would have 
made a very fine gentleman, always tried, as he ex¬ 
pressed it, ‘to keep his end up’ by calling my uncle 
‘John.’ He would answer, ‘Carn’t say as I’ve 
rightly settled that, John. ’E’s a regular book-worm 
nowadays, say what you like to him.’ 

“ ‘Books!’ said my Uncle John Julip with a con¬ 
centrated scorn of books that was essentially Eng¬ 
lish. ‘You can’t get anything out of books that 
’asn’t been put into them. It stands to reason. 
There’s nothing in books that didn’t first come out 
of the sile. Books is flattened flowers at the best, 
as ’is Lordship said at dinner only the other night.’ 

“My father was much struck by the idea. ‘That’s 
what I tell ’im,’ he said—inexactly. 

“ ‘Besides, who’s going to put anything into a 
book that’s worth knowing?’ said my uncle. ‘It’s 
like expecting these here tipsters in the papers to 


give away something worth keeping to theirselves. 
Not it!’ 

“ ‘ ’Arf the time/ my father agreed, T expect 
they’re telling you lies in these books of yours and 
larfing at you. All the same/ he reflected with an 
abrupt lapse from speculation to reverence, ‘there’s 
One Book, John.’ 

“He had remembered the Bible. 

“ ‘I wasn’t speaking of that, Smith/ said my uncle 

sharply. ‘Sufficient unto the day- I mean, 

that’s Sunday Stuff.’ 

“I hated my days of trial in the gardens. Once 
or twice during that unpleasant month I was sent 
with messages up to the kitchen and once to the 
pantry of the great house. There I said something 
unfortunate for my uncle, something that was to 
wipe out all possibility of a gardener’s career for me. 

“The butler, Mr. Petterton, w T as also a secondary 
aristocrat, but in a larger and quite different manner 
from that of my uncle. He towered up and looked 
down the slopes of himself, his many chins were 
pink and stabbed by his collar, and his hair was 
yellow and very shiny. I had to deliver into his 
hands a basket of cucumbers and a bunch of blue 
flowers called borage used in the mixing of summer 
drinks. He was standing at a table talking respect¬ 
fully to a foxy little man in tweeds who was eating 
bread-and-cheese and drinking beer; this I was to 
learn later was Lord Bramble’s agent. There was 
also a young footman in this room, a subterranean 
room it was with heavily barred windows, and he 
was cleaning silver plate with exemplary industry. 



“ ‘So you brought this from the gardens/ said 
Mr. Petterton with fine irony. ‘And may I ask why 
Mr.—why Sir John did not condescend to bring them 

“ ‘ ’E tole me to bring them/ I said. 

“ ‘And pray who may you be?’ 

“ ‘I’m ’Arry Smith/ I said. ‘Mr. Julip, Vs my 

“‘Ah!’ said Mr. Petterton and was struck by a 
thought. ‘That’s the son of Smith who’s a sort of 
greengrosher in Cliffstone.’ 

“ ‘Cherry Gardens, sir, we live at.’ 

“ ‘Haven’t seen you over here before, my boy. 
Have you ever visited us before?’ 

“ ‘Not ’ere, sir.’ 

“ ‘Not here! But you come over to the gardens 

“ ‘Nearly every Sunday, sir.’ 

“ ‘Exactly. And usually I suppose, Master Smith, 
there’s something to carry back?’ 

“ ‘Almost always, sir.’ 

“ ‘Something a bit heavy?’ 

“ ‘Not too heavy,’ I said bravely. 

“ ‘You see, sir?’ said Mr. Petterton to the foxy 
little man in tweeds. 

“I began to realise that something unpleasant 
was in the wind when this latter person set himself 
to cross-examine me in a rapid, snapping manner. 
What was it I carried? I became very red about 
the face and ears and declared I did not know. Did 
I ever carry grapes? I didn’t know. Pears? I 
didn’t know. Celery? I didn’t know. 



“ ‘Well, I know,’ said the agent. 7 know. So 
why should I ask you further? Get out of here.’ 

“I went back to my uncle and said nothing to 
him of this very disagreeable conversation, but I 
knew quite well even then that I had not heard the 
last of this matter.” 



§ 1 

“And now/’ said Sarnac, “I have to tell of a tor¬ 
nado of mischances that broke up our precarious 
little home at Cherry Gardens altogether. In that 
casual, planless, over-populated world there were no 
such things as security or social justice as we should 
understand these words nowadays. It is hard for us 
to imagine its universal ramshackle insecurity. 
Think of it. The whole world floated economically 
upon a cash and credit system that was fundamen¬ 
tally fictitious and conventional, there were no ade¬ 
quate protections against greedy abuses of those 
monetary conventions, no watch kept over world- 
production and world-consumption, no knowledge 
of the variations of climate year by year, and the 
fortunes not only of individuals but of states and 
nations fluctuated irrationally and uncontrollably. 
It was a world in which life was still almost as un¬ 
safe for men and women as life remains to-day for 
a field-mouse or a midge, which is never safe from 
one moment to another in a world of cats and owls 
and swallows and the like. People were born hap¬ 
hazard, gladdened, distressed, glorified or killed 
haphazard, and no one was ready for either their 
births or their deaths. Sudden death there is still 




in the world, a bright adventure—that lightning 
yesterday might have killed all or any of us, but 
such death is a rare thing and a clean thing. There 
is none of the distressful bearing-down to death 
through want, anxiety, and illness ill-tended and 
misunderstood, that was the common experience in 
the past. And one death does not devastate a dozen 
or more lives as deaths often did in the old days. 
A widow in the old days had lost not only her lover 
but her ‘living.’ Yet life is full of subtle compensa¬ 
tions. We did not feel our endless dangers in those 
days. We had a wonderful power of disregard until 
the chances struck us. 

“All children,” said Sarnac, “start with an abso¬ 
lute confidence in the permanence of the things they 
find about them. Disillusionment about safety pos¬ 
tulates clear-headedness. You could not realise 
your dangers unless you were clear-headed, and if 
you were clear-headed you had the fortitude to face 
your dangers. That old world was essentially a 
world of muddle-headed sophisticated children, blind 
to the universal catastrophe of the top-heavy and 
collapsing civilisation in which they played their 
parts. They thought that life was generally safe in 
a world of general insecurity. Misfortune aston¬ 
ished everyone in those days, though I cannot under¬ 
stand why they should have been astonished at any 

“The first blow fell without notice about six 
weeks after I had come back from Chessing Hanger 
to my last half year of schooling before I became a 
gardener. It was late afternoon and I was home 
from school. I was downstairs reading a book and 



my mother was clearing away tea and grumbling 
at Fanny who wanted to go out. The lamp was lit, 
and both I and my father who was having what he 
called ‘a bit of a read at the noosepaper’ were as 
close up to its insufficient light as we could get. We 
heard the shop bell jangle overhead. 

" 'Drat it!’ said my father. ‘Whaddey want this 
time o’ day?’ 

"He removed his spectacles. He had bought a 
pair haphazard at a pawnbroker’s shop and always 
used them when he read. They magnified his large 
mild eyes very greatly. He regarded us protestingly. 
What did they want? We heard the voice of Uncle 
John Julip calling down the staircase. 

" ‘Mort’mer,’ he said in a voice that struck me 
as unusual. I had never heard him call my father 
anything but Smith before. 

" 'That you, John?’ said my father standing up. 

" 'It’s me. I want to speak to you.’ 

" ‘Come down and ’ave some tea, John,’ cried my 
father at the bottom of the stairs. 

" 'Somethin’ to tell you. You better come up 
here. Somethin’ serious.’ 

“I speculated if it could be any misdeed of mine 
he had come over about. But my conscience was 
fairly clear. 

" ‘Now whatever can it be?’ asked my father. 

“ ‘You better go up and arst ’im,’ my mother 

"My father went. 

"I heard my uncle say something about, ‘We’re 
busted. We’ve bin give away and we’re busted,’ 
and then the door into the shop closed. We all 



listened to the movements above. It sounded as 
though Uncle Julip was walking up and down as 
he talked. My sister Fanny in her hat and jacket 
flitted unobtrusively up the stairs and out. After 
a time Prue came in; she had been helping teacher 
tidy up, she said, though I knew better. Then after 
a long interval my father came downstairs alone. 

“He went to the hearthrug like one in a trance 
and stood, staring portentously in order to make 
my mother ask what was the matter. ‘Why hasn’t 
John come down for a bit of tea or something? 
Where’s he gone, Morty?’ 

“ ‘ ’E’s gorn for a van,’ said my father; ‘that’s 
where ’e’s gone. For a van.’ 

“ ‘Whatever for?’ asked my mother. 

“ ‘For a removal,’ said my father. ‘That’s what 

“ ‘Removal?’ 

“ ‘We got to put ’em up ’ere for a night or so.’ 

“ ‘Put ’em up! Who?’ 

“ ‘ ’Im and Adelaide. He’s coming to Cherry 

“ ‘You done mean, Morty, ’e’s lost ’is situation?’ 

“ ‘I do. S’Lordship turned against ’im. Mis¬ 
chief ’as been made. Spying. And they managed 
to get ’im out of it. Turned out ’e is. Tole to go.’ 

“ ‘But surely they give ’im notice!’ 

“ ‘Not a bit of it. S’Lordship came down to the 
gardens ’ot and strong. “ ’Ere,” ’e said, “get out of 
it!” Like that ’e said it. “You thank your lucky 
stars,” ’e said, “I ain’t put the ’tecs on to you and 
your snivellin’ brother-in-law.” Yes. S’Lordship 
said that.’ 



“ ‘But what did ’e mean by it, Morty?’ 

“ ‘Mean? ’E meant that certain persons who shall 
be nameless ’ad put a suspicion on John, told lies 
about ’im and watched ’im. Watched ’im they did 
and me. They’ve drawed me into it, Martha. 
They’ve drawed in young ’Arry. They’ve made up 
a tale about us. . . . I always said we was a bit 
too regular. . . . There it is, ’e ain’t a ’ead gardener 
any more. ’E ain’t going to ’ave references give 
’im; ’e ain’t ever going to ’ave another regular job. 
’E’s been betrayed and ruined, and there we are!’ 

“ ‘But they say ’e took sompthing?—my brother 
John took sompthing?’ 

“ ‘Surplus projuce. What’s been a perquisite of 
every gardener since the world began. . . .’ 

“I sat with burning ears and cheeks pretending 
not to hear this dreadful conversation. No one 
knew of my own fatal share in my uncle’s downfall. 
But already in my heart, like the singing of a lark 
after a thunderstorm, was arising a realisation that 
now I might never become a gardener. My mother 
expressed her consternation brokenly. She asked 
incredulous questions which my father dealt with 
in an oracular manner. Then suddenly my mother 
pounced savagely on my sister Prue, reproaching 
her for listening to what didn’t concern her instead 
of washing up.” 

“This is a very circumstantial scene,” said 

“It was the first great crisis of my dream life,” 
said Sarnac. “It is very vivid in my memory. I 
can see again that old kitchen in which we lived 
and the faded table-cloth and the paraffin lamp with 



its glass container. I think if you gave me time I 
could tell you everything there was in that room.” 

“What’s a hearthrug?” asked Firefly suddenly. 
“What sort of thing was your hearthrug?” 

“Like nothing on earth to-day. A hearthrug was 
a sort of rug you put in front of a coal fire, next 
to the fender, which prevented the ashes creeping 
into the room. This one my father had made out 
of old clothes, trousers and such-like things, bits of 
flannel and bits of coarse sacking, cut into strips and 
sewn together. He had made it in the winter even¬ 
ings as he sat by the fireside, sewing industriously.” 

“Had it any sort of pattern?” 

“None. But I shall never tell my story, if you 
ask questions. I remember that my uncle, when 
he had made his arrangements about the van, came 
in for a bread-and-cheese supper before he walked 
back to Chessing Hanger. He was very white and 
distressed looking, Sir John had all faded away from 
him; he was like a man who had been dragged out 
from some hiding-place, he was a very distressed 
and pitiful man exposed to the light. I remember 
my mother asked him, ‘’Ow’s Adelaide taking it?’ 

“My uncle assumed an expression of profound 
resignation. ‘Starts a new pain,’ he said bitterly. 
‘At a time like this.’ 

“My father and mother exchanged sympathetic 

“ ‘I tell you-’ said my uncle, but did not say 

what he told us. 

“A storm of weak rage wrung him. ‘If I knew 
who’d done all this,’ he said. ‘That—that cat of 
a ’ousekeeper—cat I call her—she’s got someone 


what wanted my place. If she and Petterton 
framed it up-’ 

“He struck the table, but half-heartedly. 

“My father poured him out some beer. 

“ ‘Ugh!’ said my uncle and emptied the glass. 

“ ‘Got to face it,’ said my uncle, feeling better. 
‘Got to go through with it. I suppose with all 
these tuppenny-apenny villa gardens ’ere there’s 
jobbing work to be got. I’ll get something all 
right. . . . Think of it! Jobbing gardener! Me 
—a Jobber! By the Day! It’ll set up some of 
these ’ere season-ticket clerks no end to ’ave Lord 
Bramble’s gardener dragging a lawn-mower for 
them. I can see ’em showing me to their friends out 
of the window. Bin ’ead-gardener to a Lord, they’ll 
say. Well, well-! 

“ ‘It’s a come-down,’ said my father when my 
uncle had departed. ‘Say what you like, it’s a come¬ 

“My mother was preoccupied with the question 
of their accommodation. ‘She’ll ’ave to ’ave the 
sofa in the sitting-room I expect, and ’e’ll ’ave a 
bit of a shake-up on the floor. Don’t suppose she’ll 
like .it. They’ll ’ave their own bedding of course. 
But Adelaide isn’t the sort to be comfortable on a 

“Poor woman! she was not. Although my uncle 
and my father and mother all pointed out to her 
the untimeliness and inconsiderateness of her con¬ 
duct she insisted upon suffering so much that a 
doctor had to be called in. He ordered a prompt 
removal to a hospital for an immediate operation. 

“Those were days,” said Sarnac, “of the profound- 



est ignorance about the body. The ancient Greeks 
and the Arabs had done a little anatomy during 
their brief phases of intellectual activity, but the 
rest of the world had only been studying physiology 
in a scientific way for about three hundred years. 
People in general still knew practically nothing of 
vital processes. As I have told you they even bore 
children by accident. And living the queer lives 
they did, with abnormal and ill-prepared food in 
a world of unchecked infections, they found the 
very tissues of the bodies going wrong and breaking 
out into the queerest growths. Parts of these bodies 
would cease to do anything but change into a sort 
of fungoid proliferation-” 

“Their bodies were like their communities!” said 

“The same sort of thing. They had tumours and 
cancers and such-like things in their bodies and 
Cherry-Garden urban-districts on their country¬ 
sides. But these growths!—they are dreadful even 
to recall.” 

“But surely,” said Willow, “in the face of such 
a horrible possibility which might afflict anyone, all 
the world must have wanted to push on with physio¬ 
logical research.” 

“Didn’t they see,” said Sunray, “that all these 
things were controllable and curable?” 

“Not a bit of it,” said Sarnac. “They didn’t 
positively like these tumours and cancers, but the 
community was too under-vitalised to put up a real 
fight against these miseries. And everyone thought 
that he or she would escape—until it had them. 
There was a general apathy. And the priests and 



journalists and so forth, the common opinion 
makers, were jealous of scientific men. They did 
their best to persuade people that there was nothing 
hopeful in scientific research, they did all they could 
to discredit its discoveries, to ridicule its patient 
workers and set people against them.” 

“That’s what puzzles me most,” said Sunray. 

“Their mental habits were different. Their minds 
hadn’t been trained to comprehensive thinking. 
Their thinking was all in compartments and patches. 
The morbid growths in their bodies were nothing 
to the morbid growths in their minds.” 

§ 2 

“My aunt in the hospital, with that lack of con¬ 
sideration for my uncle that had always distin¬ 
guished her, would neither recover nor die. She was 
a considerable expense to him and no help; she 
added greatly to his distresses. After some days 
and at the urgent suggestion of my mother he 
removed himself from our sitting-room to a two- 
roomed lodging in the house of a bricklayer in an 
adjacent street; into this he crowded his furniture 
from Chessing Hanger, but he frequented my 
father’s shop and showed a deepening attachment 
to my father’s company. 

“He was not so successful a jobbing gardener as 
he had anticipated. His short contemptuous w r ay 
with his new clients in the villas of Cliffstone failed 
to produce the respect he designed it to do; he would 
speak of their flower-beds as Two penn’orths of 
all-sorts’ and compare their gardens to a table-cloth 
or a window box; and instead of welcoming these 



home-truths, they resented them. But they had 
not the manliness to clear up this matter by a 
good straightforward argument in which they would 
have had their social position very exactly defined; 
they preferred to keep their illusions and just ceased 
to employ him. Moreover, his disappointment with 
my aunt produced a certain misogyny, which took 
the form of a refusal to take orders from the wives 
of his patrons when they were left in sole charge 
of the house. As many of these wives had a con¬ 
siderable influence over their husbands, this too 
injured my uncle’s prospects. Consequently there 
were many days when he had nothing to do but 
stand about our shop to discuss with my father as 
hearer the defects of Cliffstone villa-residents, the 
baseness of Mr. Petterton and that cat (‘cat’ he 
called her) and the probable unworthiness of any 
casual customer who strayed into range of comment. 

“Nevertheless my uncle was resolved not to be 
defeated without a struggle. There was a process 
which he called 'keeping his pecker up,’ which neces¬ 
sitated, I could not but perceive, periodic visits to 
the Wellington public-house at the station corner. 
From these visits he returned markedly more garru¬ 
lous, more like Sir John ffrench-Cuthbertson, and 
exhaling a distinctively courageous smell when he 
coughed or breathed heavily. After a time, as his 
business difficulties became more oppressive, my 
father participated in these heartening excursions. 
They broadened his philosophical outlook but made 
it, I fancied, rather less distinct. 

“My uncle had some indefinite sum of money in 
the Post Office Savings Bank, and in his determina- 



tion not to be beaten without a struggle he did some 
courageous betting on what he called ‘certs’ at the 
race-meetings on Byford Downs.” 

“ ‘Cert’ beats me altogether,” said Radiant. 

“A ‘cert’ was a horse that was certain to win and 
never did. A ‘dead cert’ was an extreme form of 
the ‘cert.’ You cannot imagine how the prospects 
and quality of the chief race-horses were discussed 
throughout the land. The English were not a no¬ 
madic people, only a minority could ride horses, 
but everybody could bet on them. The King was, 
so to speak, head of the racing just as he was head 
of the army. He went in person to the great race- 
meetings as if to bless and encourage the betting 
of his subjects. So that my Uncle John Julip was 
upheld by the most loyal and patriotic sentiments 
when he wasted his days and his savings on Byford 
Downs. On several of these occasions my father 
went with him and wrestled with fortune also. They 
lost generally, finally they lost most of what they 
had, but on one or two occasions, as my uncle put 
it, they ‘struck it rich.’ One day they pitched upon 
a horse called Rococo, although it was regarded as 
the very reverse of a ‘cert’ and the odds were heavy 
against it, but an inner light seems to have guided 
my uncle; it came in first and they won as much 
as thirty-five pounds, a very large sum for them. 
They returned home in a state of solemn exaltation, 
which was only marred by some mechanical dif¬ 
ficulty in pronouncing the name of the winning 
horse. They began well but after the first syllable 
they went on more like a hen that had laid an egg 



than like rational souls who had spotted a winner. 
‘Rocococo’ they would say or ‘Rococococo.’ Or they 
would end in a hiccup. And though each tried to 
help the other out, they were not really helpful 
to each other. They diffused an unusually powerful 
odour of cigars and courage. Never had they smelt 
so courageous. My mother made them tea. 

“ ‘Tea!’ said my uncle meaningly. He did not 
actually refuse the cup she put before him, but he 
pushed it a little aside. 

“For some moments it seemed doubtful whether 
he was going to say something very profound or 
whether he was going to be seriously ill. Mind 
triumphed over matter. ‘Knew it would come, 
Marth,’ he said. ‘Knew allong it would come. 
Directly I heard name. Roc-’ He paused. 

“ ‘Cococo/ clucked my father. 

“ ‘Cocococo—hiccup/ said my uncle. ‘I knew 
ourour ’ad come. Some men, Smith, some men ’ave 
that instink. I would ’ave put my shirt on that 
’orse, Marth—only. . . . They wouldn’t ’ave took 
my shirt.’ 

“He looked suddenly very hard at me. ‘They 
wouldn’t ’ave took it, ’Arry,’ he said. ‘They done 
take shirts!’ “ ‘No,’ he said and became profoundly 

“Then he looked up. ‘Thirty-six to one against,’ 
he said. ‘We’d ’ave ’ad shirts for a lifetime.’ 

“My father saw it from a wider, more philosophi¬ 
cal point of view. ‘Might never ’ave been spared to 
wear ’em out,’ he said. ‘Better as it is, John.’ 

“ ‘And mind you,’ said my uncle; ‘this is only 



a beginning. Once I start spotting ’em I go on 
spotting ’em—mind that. This Roc-’ 

“ ‘Cococo.’ 

“ ‘Cocococo —whatever it is, s’only a beginning. 
S’only the firs’-ray-sunlight V a glorious day.’ 

“ ‘In that case,’ said my mother, ’t’seems to me 
some of us might have a share.’ 

“ ‘Certainly,’ said my uncle, ‘certainly, Marth.’ 
And amazingly he handed me a ten-shilling piece— 
in those days we had gold coins and this was a little 
disk of gold. Then he handed Prue the same. He 
gave a whole sovereign, a golden pound, to Fanny 
and a five-pound Bank of England note to my 

“ ‘Hold on!’ said my father warningly. 

“ ‘Tha’s a’ right, Smith,’ said my uncle with a 
gesture of princely generosity. ‘ You share, seven¬ 
teen pounce ten. Six pounce ten leaves ’leven. 
Lessee. One ’n’ five six—seven—eight—nine—ten 
—’leven. Here!’ 

“My father took the balance of the money with 
a puzzled expression. Something eluded him. 
‘Yers,’ he said; ‘but-’ 

“His mild eye regarded the ten-shilling piece I 
still held exposed in my hand. I put it away im¬ 
mediately but his gaze followed my hand towards 
my pocket until it met the table edge and got into 

“ ‘Thout the turf, Smith, there wouldn’t be such 
a country as England,’ said my Uncle John, and 
rounded his remarks off with, ‘Mark my words.’ 

“My father did his best to do so.” 



§ 3 

"But this hour of success was almost the only- 
bright interlude in a steady drift to catastrophe. In 
a little while I gathered from a conversation between 
my mother and my father that we were ‘behind with 
the rent.’ That was a quarterly payment we paid 
to the enterprising individual who owned our house. 
I know all that sounds odd to you, but that is the 
way things were done. If we got behind with our 
rent the owner could turn us out.” 

"But where?” asked Firefly. 

“Out of the house. And we weren’t allowed to 
stay in the street. But it is impossible for me to 
explain everything of that sort in detail. We were 
behind with the rent and catastrophe impended. 
And then my sister Fanny ran away from us. 

"In no other respect,” said Sarnac, "is it so dif¬ 
ficult to get realities over to you and make you 
understand how I thought and felt in that other 
life than in matters of sex. Nowadays sex is so 
simple. Here we are free and frank men and 
women; we are trained so subtly that we scarcely 
know we are trained, not to be stupidly competitive, 
to control jealous impulses, to live generously, to 
honour the young. Love is the link and flower of 
our choicest friendships. We take love by the way 
as we take our food and our holidays, the main 
thing in our lives is our creative work. But in that 
dark tormented world in which I passed my dream 
life, all the business of love was covered over and 
netted in by restraints and put in fetters that fretted 
and tortured. I will tell you at last how I was 



killed. Now I want to convey to you something 
of the reality of this affair of Fanny. 

“Even in this world,” said Sarnac, “my sister 
Fanny would have been a conspicuously lovely girl. 
Her eyes could be as blue as heaven, or darken with 
anger or excitement so that they seemed black. 
Her hair had a brave sweep in it always. Her smile 
made you ready to do anything for her; her laughter 
made the world clean and brightly clear about her 
even when it was touched with scorn. And she was 
ignorant- I can hardly describe her ignorance. 

“It was Fanny first made me feel that ignorance 
was shameful. I have told you the sort of school 
we had and of our religious teachers. When I was 
nine or ten and Fanny was fifteen, she was already 
scolding me for fumbling with the pronunciation of 
words and particularly with the dropping of the 

“ ‘Harry/ she said, ‘if you call me Fenny again 
it’s war and pinching. My name’s Fanny and 
yours is Harry and don’t you forget it. It’s not 
English we talk in this place; it’s mud.’ 

“Something had stung her. She had been talking 
with someone with a better accent and she had been 
humiliated. I think that someone may have 
mocked her. Some chance acquaintance it must 
have been, some ill-bred superior boy upon the Cliff- 
stone promenade. But Fanny was setting out now 
to talk good English and make me do the same, 
with a fury all her own. 

“ ‘If only I could talk French/ she said. ‘There’s 
France in sight over there; all its lighthouses wink¬ 
ing at us, and all we’ve got to say is, “Parley vous 



Francy,” and grin as if it was a joke.’ She brought 
home a sixpenny book which professed but failed 
to teach her French. She was reading voraciously, 
greedily, to know. She read endless novels but also 
she was reading all sorts of books, about the stars, 
about physiology (in spite of my mother’s wild 
scoldings at the impropriety of reading a book ‘with 
pictures of yer insides’ in it), about foreign countries. 
Her passion that I should learn was even greater 
than her own passion for knowledge. 

“At fourteen she left school and began to help 
earn her living. My mother had wanted her to 
go into ‘service,’ but she had resisted and resented 
this passionately. While that proposal was still 
hanging over her, she went off by herself to Cliff- 
stone and got a job as assistant book-keeper in a 
pork butcher’s shop. Before a year was out she was 
book-keeper, for her mind was as neat as it was 
nimble. She earned enough money to buy books 
and drawing material for me and to get herself 
clothes that scandalised all my mother’s ideas of 
what was becoming. Don’t imagine she ‘dressed 
well,’ as we used to say; she experimented boldly, 
and some of her experiments were cheap and tawdry. 

“I could lecture to you for an hour,” said Sarnac, 
“of what dress and the money to buy dresses meant 
for a woman in the old world. 

“A large part of my sister’s life was hidden from 
me; it would have been hidden altogether but for 
the shameless tirades of my mother, who seemed 
to prefer to have an audience while she scolded 
Fanny. I can see now that my mother was bitterly 
jealous of Fanny because of her unexhausted youth, 



but at the time I was distressed and puzzled at the 
gross hints and suggestions that flew over my head. 
Fanny had a maddening way of not answering back 
or answering only by some minor correction. ‘It’s 
horrible, mother/ she would say. ‘Not ’orrible.’ 

“Behind her defensive rudenesses, unlit, unguided, 
poor Fanny was struggling with the whole riddle 
of life, presented to her with an urgency no man 
can fully understand. Nothing in her upbringing 
had ever roused her to the passion for real work 
in the world; religion for her had been a grimace 
and a threat; the one great reality that had come 
through to her thoughts was love. The novels she 
read all told of love, elusively, partially, and an 
impatience in her imagination and in her body leapt 
to these hints. Love whispered to her in the light 
and beauty of things about her; in the moonlight, 
in the spring breezes. Fanny could not but know 
that she was beautiful. But such morality as our 
world had then was a morality of abject suppression. 
Love was a disgrace, a leering fraud, a smutty joke. 
She was not to speak about it, not to look towards 
it until some good man—the pork butcher was a 
widower and seemed likely to be the good man in 
her case—came and spoke not of love indeed but 
marriage. He would marry her and hurry home 
with his prize and tear the wrappings from her 
loveliness, clumsily, stupidly, in a mood of morbidly 
inflamed desire.” 

“Sarnac,” said Firefly, “you are horrible.” 

“No,” said Sarnac. “But that world of the past 
was horrible. Most of the women, your ancestors, 
suffered such things. And that was only the begin- 



ning of the horror. Then came the birth and 
desecration of the children. Think what a delicate, 
precious and holy thing a child is! They were be¬ 
gotten abundantly and abnormally, born reluctantly, 
and dropped into the squalour and infection of an 
overcrowded disordered world. Bearing a child was 
not the jolly wholesome process we know to-day; 
in that diseased society it was an illness, it counted 
as an illness, for nearly every woman. Which the 
man her husband resented—grossly. Five or six 
children in five or six years and a pretty girl was 
a cross, worried wreck of a woman, bereft of any 
shred of spirit or beauty. My poor scolding, worried 
mother was not fifty when she died. And one saw 
one’s exquisite infants grow up into ill-dressed, un¬ 
der-nourished, ill-educated children. Think of the 
agony of shamed love that lay beneath my poor 
mother’s slaps and scoldings! The world has for¬ 
gotten now the hate and bitterness of disappointed 
parentage. That was the prospect of the moral life 
that opened before my sister Fanny; that was the 
antistrophe to the siren song of her imagination. 

“She could not believe this of life and love. She 
experimented with love and herself. She was, my 
mother said, 'a bold, bad girl.’ She began I know 
with furtive hissings and huggings in the twilight, 
with boy schoolfellows, with clerks and errand-boys. 
Some gleam of nastiness came into these adventures 
of the dusk and made her recoil. At any rate she 
became prim and aloof to Cherry Gardens, but only 
because she was drawn to the bands and lights and 
prosperity of Cliffstone. That was when she began 
to read and correct her accent. You have heard of 



our old social stratifications. She wanted to be like 
a lady; she wanted to meet a gentleman. She 
imagined there were gentlemen who were really 
gentle, generous, wise and delightful, and she 
imagined that some of the men she saw on the cliff 
promenade at were gentlemen. She began 
to dress herself as I have told. 

“There were scores of such girls in every town 
in Europe,” said Sarnac, “turning their backs on 
their dreadful homes. In a sort of desperate hope. 

“When you hear about the moral code of the 
old world,” Sarnac went on, “you are apt to think 
of it as a rule that everyone respected in exactly 
the same way that you think everyone believed the 
professed religions. We have not so much a moral 
code now as a moral training, and our religion in¬ 
volves no strain on reason or instincts, and so it is 
difficult for us to understand the tortuosity and 
evasions and defiances and general furtiveness and 
meanness of a world in which nobody really under¬ 
stood and believed the religious creeds, not even the 
priests, and nobody was really convinced to the 
bone of the sweetness and justice of the moral code. 
In that distant age almost everybody was sexually 
angry or uncomfortable or dishonest; the restraints 
we had did not so much restrain as provoke people. 
It is difficult to imagine it now.” 

“Not if you read the old literature,” said Sunray. 
“The novels and plays are pathological.” 

“So you have my pretty sister Fanny, drawn by 
impulses she did not understand, flitting like a moth 
out of our dingy home in Cherry Gardens to the 
lights, bright lights of hope they seemed to her, 



about the bandstand and promenade of Cliffstone. 
And there staying in the lodging-houses and board¬ 
ing-houses and hotels were limited and thwarted 
people, keeping holiday, craving for bright excite¬ 
ments, seeking casual pleasures. There were wives 
who had tired of their husbands and husbands long 
weary of their wives, there were separated people 
who could not divorce and young men who could 
not marry because they could not afford to maintain 
a family. With their poor hearts full of naughti¬ 
ness, rebellious suppressions, jealousies, resentments. 
And through this crowd, eager, provocative, and 
defenceless, flitted my pretty sister Fanny A 

§ 4 

“On the evening before Fanny ran away my 
father and my uncle sat in the kitchen by the fire 
discoursing of politics and the evils of life. They 
had both been keeping up their peckers very reso¬ 
lutely during the day and this gave a certain ram¬ 
bling and recurrent quality to their review. Their 
voices were hoarse, and they drawled and were loud 
and emphatic and impressive. It was as if they 
spoke for the benefit of unseen listeners. Often they 
would both be talking together. My mother was 
in the scullery washing up the tea-things and I was 
sitting at the table near the lamp trying to do some 
homework my teacher had given me, so far as the 
distraction of this conversation so close to me and 
occasional appeals to me to ‘mark’ this or that, 
would permit. Prue was reading a book called Min¬ 
istering Children to which she was much addicted. 
Fanny had been helping my mother until she was 



told she was more a hindrance than a help. Then 
she came and stood at my side looking over my 
shoulder at what I was doing. 

“ ‘What’s spoiling trade and ruining the country/ 
said my uncle, ‘is these ’ere strikes. These ’ere strikes 
reg’ler destrushion—destruction for the country.’ 

“ ‘Stop everything/ said my father. ‘It stands 
to reason.’ 

“ ‘They didn’t ought to be allowed. These ’ere 
miners’r paid and paid ’andsomely. Paid ’andsomely 
they are. ’Andsomely. Why! I’d be glad of the 
pay they get, glad of it. They ’as bulldogs, they ’as 
pianos. Champagne. Me and you, Smith, me and 
you and the middle classes generally; we don’t get 
pianos. We don’t get champagne. Not-tit. . . .’ 

“ ‘Ought to be a Middle Classes Union,’ said my 
father, ‘keep these ’ere workers in their places. They 
’old up the country and stop trade. Trade! Trade’s 
orful. Why! people come in now and look at what 
you got and arst the price of this and that. Think 
twice they do before they spend a sixpence. . . . 
And the coal you’re expected to sell nowadays! I 
tell ’em, if this ’ere strike comes off this’s ’bout the 
last coal you’re likely to see, good or bad. Straight 
out, I tell ’em. . . .’ 

“ ‘You’re not working, Harry,’ said Fanny with¬ 
out troubling to lower her voice. ‘Don’t see how 
you can work, wuth all this jawing going on. Come 
out for a walk.’ 

“I glanced up at her and rose at once. It wasn’t 
often Fanny asked me to go for a walk with her. 
I put my books away. 


“ 'Going out for a bit of fresh air, mother/ said 
Fanny, taking her hat down from its peg. 

“ ‘No, you don’t—not at this time/ cried my 
mother from the scullery. ‘Ain’t I said, once and 
for all-?’ 

“ ‘It’s all right, mother, Harry’s going with me. 
He’ll see no one runs aw^ay with me and ruins me. 

. . . You’ve said it once and for all—times enough.’ 

“My mother made no further objection, but she 
flashed a look of infinite hate at my sister. 

“We went upstairs and out into the street. 

“For a time we said nothing, but I had a sense 
that I was going to be ‘told things.’ 

“ ‘I’ve had about enough of all this/ Fanny began 
presently. ‘What’s going to become of us? Father 
and uncle ’ve been drinking all day; you can see 
they’re both more than half-screwed. Both of ’em. 
It’s every day now. It’s worse and worse and worse. 
Uncle hasn’t had a job these ten days. Father’s 
always with him. The shop’s getting filthy. He 
doesn’t sweep it out now for days together.’ 

“ ‘Uncle seems to have lost ’eart,’ I said, ‘since 
he heard that Aunt Adelaide would have to have 
that second operation.’ 

“ ‘Lost heart! He never had any heart to lose.’ 
My sister Fanny said no more of my uncle—by an 
effort. ‘What a home!’ she cried. 

“She paused for a moment. ‘Harry,’ she said, 
‘I’m going to get out of this. Soon.’ 

“I asked what she meant by that. 

“ ‘Never mind what I mean. I’ve got a situation. 
A different sort of situation. . . . Harry, you—- 
you care for me, Harry?’ 



“Professions of affection are difficult for boys of 
thirteen. ‘I’d do anything for you, Fanny/ I said 
after a pause. ‘You know I would.’ 

“ ‘And you wouldn’t tell on me?’ 

“ ‘Whad you take me for?’ 

“ ‘Nohow?’ 

“ ‘No’ow.’ 

“ ‘I knew you wouldn’t/ said Fanny. ‘You’re 
the only one of the whole crew I’ll be sorry to leave. 
I do care for you, Harry. Straight, I do. I used 
to care for mother. Once. But that’s different. 
She’s scolded me and screamed at me till it’s gone. 
Every bit of it. I can’t help it,—it’s gone. I’ll 
think of you, Harry—often.’ 

“I realised that Fanny was crying. Then when 
I glanced at her again her tears were over. 

“ ‘Look here, Harry,’ she said, ‘would you do— 
something—for me? Something—not so very much 
—and not tell? Not tell afterwards, I mean.’ 

“ ‘I’d do anything, Fanny.’ 

“ ‘It’s not so very much really. There’s that little 
old portmanteau upstairs. I’ve put some things 
in it. And there’s a little bundle. I’ve put ’em 
both under the bed at the back where even Prying 
Prue won’t think of looking. And to-morrow—when 
father’s out with uncle like he is now every day, 
and mother’s getting dinner downstairs and Prue’s 
pretending to help her and sneaking bits of bread 
—if you’d bring those down to Cliffstone to Crosby’s 
side-door. . . . They aren’t so very heavy.’ 

“ ‘I ain’t afraid of your portmanteau, Fanny. I’d 
carry it more miles than that for you. But where’s 


this new situation of yours, Fanny? and why ain’t 
you saying a word about it at home?’ 

“ ‘Suppose I asked you something harder than 
carrying a portmanteau, Harry?’ 

“ ‘I’d do it, Fanny, if I could do it. You know 
that, Fanny.’ 

“ ‘But if it was just to ask no questions of where 
I am going and what I am going to do? It’s—it’s 
a good situation, Harry. It isn’t hard work.’ 

“She stopped short. I saw her face by the yellow 
light of a street lamp and I was astonished to see 
it radiant with happiness. And yet her eyes were 
shining with tears. What a Fanny it was, who could 
pass in a dozen steps from weeping to ecstasy! 

“ ‘Oh! I wish I could tell you all about it, Harry,’ 
she said. ‘I wish I could tell you all about it. Don’t 
you worry about me, Harry, or what’s going to hap¬ 
pen to me. You help me, and after a bit I’ll write 
to you. I will indeed, Harry.’ 

“ ‘You aren’t going to run away and marry?’ I 
asked abruptly. ‘It’d be like you, Fanny, to do that.’ 

“ ‘I won’t say I am; I won’t say I’m not; I won’t 
say anything, Harry. But I’m as happy as the sun¬ 
rise, Harry! I could dance and sing. If only I can 
do it, Harry.’ 

“ ‘There’s one thing, Fanny.’ 

“She stopped dead. ‘You’re not going back on 
me, Harry?’ 

“ ‘No. I’ll do what I’ve promised, Fanny. But 

-’ I had a moral mind. I hesitated. ‘You’re 

not doing anything wrong, Fanny?’ 

“She shook her head and did not answer for some 
moments. The look of ecstasy returned. 



“ ‘I’m doing the Tightest thing that ever I did, 
Harry, the Tightest thing. If only I can do it. And 
you are a dear to help me, a perfect dear.’ 

“And suddenly she put her arms about me and 
drew my face to hers and kissed me and then she 
pushed me away and danced a step. ‘I love all the 
world to-night/ said Fanny. T love all the world. 
Silly old Cherry Gardens! You thought you’d got 
me! You thought I’d never get away!’ 

“She began a sort of chant of escape. ‘To-mor¬ 
row’s my last day at Crosby’s, my very last day. 
For ever and ever. Amen. He’ll never come too 
near me again and breathe down my neck. He’ll 
never put his fat hand on my bare arm and shove 
his face close to mine while he looks at my cash- 

sheet. When I get to-, wherever I’m going, 

Harry, I’ll want to send him a post card. Good-bye, 
Mr. Crosby, good-bye, dear Mr. Crosby. For ever 
and ever. Amen!’ She made what I knew to be 
her imitation of Mr. Crosby’s voice. ‘You’re the 
sort of girl who ought to marry young and have a 
steady husband older than yourself, my dear. Did 
I ought? And who said you might call me your 
dear, dear Mr. Crosby? Twenty-five shillings a 
week and pawings about and being called dear, 
thrown in. . . . I’m wild to-night, Harry—wild 
to-night. I could laugh and scream, and yet I want 
to cry, Harry, because I’m leaving you. And leaving 
them all! Though why I care I don’t know. Poor, 
boozy, old father! Poor, silly, scolding mother! 
Some day perhaps I may help them if only I get 
away. And you—you’ve got to go on learning and 
improving, Harry, learning, learning. Learn and 



get out of Cherry Gardens. Never drink. Never 
let drink cross your lips. Don’t smoke. For why 
should anyone smoke? Take the top side of life, 
for it’s easier up there. Indeed, it’s easier. Work 
and read, Harry. Learn French—so that when I 
come back to see you, we can both talk together.’ 

“ ‘You’re going to learn French? You’re going 
to France?’ 

“ ‘Farther than France. But not a word, Harry. 
Not a word of it. But I wish I could tell you every¬ 
thing. I can’t. I mustn’t. I’ve given my promise. 
I’ve got to keep faith. All one has to do in the 
world is to love and keep faith. But I wish mother 
had let me help wash-up to-night, my last night. 
She hates me. She’ll hate me more yet. ... I 
wonder if I’ll keep awake all night or cry myself 
to sleep. Let’s race as far as the goods-station, 
Harry, and then walk home.’ ” 

§ 5 

“The next night Fanny did not come home at 
all. As the hours passed and the emotion of my 
family deepened I began to realise the full enormity 
of the disaster that had come upon our home.” 

Sarnac paused and smiled. “Never was there so 
clinging a dream. I am still half Harry Mortimer 
Smith and only half myself. I am still not only in 
memory but half in feeling also that young English 
barbarian in the Age of Confusion. And yet all 
the time I am looking at my story from our point 
of view and telling it in Sarnac’s voice. Amidst 
this sunshine. ... Was it really a dream? ... I 
don’t believe I am telling you a dream.” 



“It isn’t a bit like a dream,” said Willow. “It is 
a story—a real story. Do you think it was a dream?” 

Sunray shook her head. “Go on,” she said to 
Sarnac. “Whatever it is, tell it. Tell us how your 
family behaved when Fanny ran away.” 

“You must keep in mind that all these poor souls 
were living in a world of repressions such as seem 
almost inconceivable now. You think they had 
ideas about love and sex and duty different from 
our ideas. We are taught that they had different 
ideas. But that is not the truth; the truth is that 
they had no clear, thought-out ideas about such 
things at all. They had fears and blank prohibi¬ 
tions and ignorances where we have ideas. Love, 
sex, these were things like the enchanted woods of a 
fairy tale. It was forbidden even to go in. And— 
none of us knew to what extent—Fanny had gone in. 

“So that evening was an evening of alarm deepen¬ 
ing to a sort of moral panic for the whole household. 
It seemed to be required of my family that they 
should all behave irrationally and violently. My 
mother began to fret about half-past nine. ‘I’ve 
tole ’er, once for all/ she said, partly to herself but 
also for my benefit. Tt’s got to stop.’ She cross- 
examined me about where Fanny might be. Had 
she said anything about going on the pier? I said 
I didn’t know. My mother fumed and fretted. 
Even if Fanny had gone on the pier she ought to 
be home by ten. I wasn’t sent to bed at the usual 
hour so that I saw my father and uncle come in 
after the public-house had closed. I forget now why 
my uncle came in to us instead of going straight 
home, but it was not a very unusual thing for him 



to do so. They were already disposed to despon¬ 
dency and my mother’s white face and anxious 
tiding deepened their gloom. 

“ 'Mortimer/ said my mother, 'that gal of yours 
’as gone a bit too far. Sarf-pars’ ten and she isn’t 
’ome yet.’ 

"' ’Aven’t I tole ’er time after time/ said my 
father, ‘she’s got to be in by nine?’ 

“ 'Not times enough you ’aven’t/ said my mother, 
‘and ’ere’s the fruit!’ 

“ 'I’ve tole ’er time after time/ said my father. 
‘Time after time.’ And he continued to repeat this 
at intervals throughout the subsequent discussion 
until another refrain replaced it. 

“My uncle said little at first. He took up his 
position on the hearthrug my father had made and 
stood there, swaying slightly, hiccupping at inter¬ 
vals behind his hand, frowning and scrutinising the 
faces of the speakers. At last he delivered his judg¬ 
ment. ‘Somethin’sappened to that girl,’ he said. 
'You mark my words.’ 

“Prue had a mind apt for horrors. 'She’s bin 
in ’naccident per’aps/ she said. 'She may’ve bin 
knocked down.’ 

“ 'I’ve tole ’er/ said my father, ‘time after time.’ 

“ 'If there’s bin ’naccident,’ said my uncle sagely. 
‘Well . . . ’nything ma’ve ’appened.’ He repeated 
this statement in a louder, firmer voice. ‘ ’Nything 
ma’ve ’appened.’ 

“ ’Stime you went to bed, Prue,’ said my mother, 
‘ ’igh time. ’N’ you too, ’Arry.’ 

“My sister got up with unusual promptitude and 



went out of the room. I think she must have had an 
idea then of looking for Fanny’s things. I lingered. 

“ ‘May’ve been ’naccident, may not,’ said my 
mother darkly. ‘Sworse things than accidents.’ 

“ ‘Whaddyoumean by that, Marth?’ asked my 

“ ‘Never mind what I mean. That girl’s worried 
me times and oft. There’s worse things than acci¬ 

“I listened, thrilled. ‘You be orf to bed, ’Any,’ 
said my mother. 

“Whaddyou got to do,—simple,’ said my uncle, 
leaning forward on his toes. ‘Telephone ’ospitals. 
Telephone plice. Old Crow at the Wellington 
won’t’ve gone to bed. ’Sgot telephone. Good cus¬ 
tomers. ’E’ll telephone. Mark my words—s’snac- 

“And then Prue reappeared at the top of the stairs. 

“ ‘Mother!’ she said in a loud whisper. 

“ ‘You be orf to bed, miss,’ said my mother. 
‘ ’Aven’t I got worries enough?’ 

“ ‘Mother,’ said Prue. ‘You know that little old 
portmantle of Fanny’s?’ 

“Everyone faced a new realisation. 

“ ‘Sgorn,’ said Prue. ‘And her two best ’ats and 
all ’er undercloe’s and ’er other dress—gorn too.’ 

“ ‘Then she’s took ’em!’ said my father. 

“ ‘And ’erself!’ said my mother. 

“ ‘Time after time I tole her,’ said my father. 

“ ‘She’s run away!’ said my mother with a scream 
in her voice. ‘She’s brought shame and disgrace on 
us! She’s run away!’ 

“ ‘Some one’s got ’old of ’er,’ said my father. 



“My mother sat down abruptly. ‘After all I done 
for ’er!’ she cried, beginning to weep. ‘With an 
honest man ready to marry ’er! Toil and sacrifice, 
care and warnings, and she’s brought us to shame 
and dishonour! She’s run away! That I should 
’ave lived to see this day! Fanny!’ 

“She jumped up suddenly to go and see with her 
own eyes that Prue’s report was true. I made my¬ 
self as inconspicuous as possible, for I feared some 
chance question might reveal my share in our family 
tragedy. But I didn’t want to go to bed; I wanted 
to hear things out. 

“ ‘Sanny good my going to the plice-station for 
you on my way ’ome?’ my uncle asked. 

“‘Plice!’ said my father. ‘What good’s plice? 
Gaw! If I ’ad my ’ands on that villain’s throat 
—I’d plice ’im! Bringing shame on me and mine! 
Plice! ’Ere’s Fanny, my little daughter Fanny, 
beguiled and misled and carried away! . . . I’m 
’asty. . . . Yes, John. You go in and tell the 
plice. It’s on your way. Tell ’em from me. I 
won’t leave not a single stone unturned so’s to bring 
’er back.’ 

“My mother came back whiter than ever. ‘It’s 
right enough,’ she said. ‘She’s gorn! She’s off. 
While we stand ’ere, disgraced and shamed, she’s 

“ ‘Who with?’ said my father. ‘That’s the ques¬ 
tion, who with? ’Arry, ’ave you ever seen anyone 
about with your sister? Anyone ’anging about? 
Any suspicious-looking sort of dressed-up fancy 
man? ’Ave you ever?’ 

“I said I hadn’t. 



“But Prue had evidence. She became voluble. 
About a week ago she had seen Fanny and a man 
coming along from Cliffstone, talking. They hadn’t 
seen her; they had been too wrapped up in each 
other. Her description of the man was very vague 
and was concerned chiefly with his clothes; he had 
worn a blue serge suit and a grey felt hat; he was 
‘sort of a gentleman like.’ He was a good lot older 
than Fanny—Prue wasn’t sure whether he had a 
moustache or not. 

“My father interrupted Prue’s evidence by a tre¬ 
mendous saying which I was to hear him repeat 
time after time during the next week. ‘Sooner’n 
this sh’d’ve ’appened,’ said my father, ‘I’d’ve seen 
’er lying dead at my feet —gladly I’d ’ve seen ’er 
lying dead at my feet!’ 

“‘Poor girl!’ said my uncle. ‘Sabitter lesson she 
’as before ’er. A bitter lesson! Poo’ chile! Poo’ 
little Fanny!’ 

“‘Poor Fanny indeed!’ cried my mother vindic¬ 
tively, seeing it all, I perceived, from an entirely 
different angle. ‘There she is prancin’ about with 
’er fancy gentleman now in all ’er fallals; dinners 
and wine she’ll ’ave, flowers she’ll ’ave, dresses and 
everything. Be took about and shown things! 
Shown off and took to theayters. The shame of 
it! And us ’ere shamed and disgraced and not a 
word to say when the neighbours ask us questions! 
’Ow can I look ’em in the face? ’Ow can I look 
Mr. Crosby in the face? That man was ready to 
go down on ’is bended knees to ’er and worship ’er. 
Stout though ’e was. ’E’d ’ave given ’er anything 
she arst for—in reason. What ’e could see in ’er. 



I could never make out. But see it ’e did. And 
now I’ve got to face ’im and tell ’im I’ve told ’im 
wrong. Time after time I’ve said to ’im— “You wait. 
You wait, Mr. Crosby.” And that ’uzzy!—sly and 
stuck-up and deep! Gorn!’ 

“My father’s voice came booming over my moth¬ 
er’s shrill outcry. ‘Sooner’n this should’ve ’appened 
I’d ’ve seen er dead at my feet!’ 

“I was moved to protest. But for all my thirteen 
years I found myself weeping. ‘ ’Ow d’you know / 
I blubbered, ‘that Fanny ’asn’t gone away and got 
married? ’Ow d’you know?’ 

“ ‘Merried! ’ cried my mother. ‘Why should she 
run away to be merried? If it was merridge, what 
was to prevent ’er bringing ’im ’ome and having ’im 
interjuced to us all, right and proper? Isn’t her 
own father and mother and ’ome good enough for 
her, that she ’as to run away and get merried? When 
she could ’ave ’ad it ’ere at St. Jude’s nice and re¬ 
spectable with your father and your uncle and all 
of us and white favours and a carriage and all. I 
wish I could ’ope she was merried! I wish there 
was a chance of it! ’ 

“My uncle shook his head in confirmation. 

“ ‘Sooner ’n this should’ve ’appened,’ boomed my 
father, ‘I’d’ve seen ’er dead at my feet!’ 

“ ‘Last night,’ said Prue, ‘she said ’er prayers.’ 

“ ‘Didn’t she always say ’er prayers?’ asked my 
uncle, shocked. 

“ ‘Not kneeling down,’ said Prue. ‘But last night 
she was kneeling quite a long time. She thought I 
was asleep but I watched ’er.’ 

“ ‘That looks bad,’ said my uncle. ‘Y’know, 



Smith; that looks bad. I don’t like that praying. 
Sominous. I don’t like it.’ 

“And then suddenly and violently Prue and I 
were packed off upstairs to bed. 

“For long the sound of their voices went on; the 
three of them came up into the shop and stood at 
the front door while my uncle gradually took leave, 
but what further things they said I did not hear. 
But I remember that suddenly I had a brilliant idea, 
suggested no doubt by Prue’s scrap of evidence. I 
got out of bed and knelt down and said, Tray God, 
be kind to my Fanny! Pray God not to be hard 
on Fanny! I’m sure she means to get merried. For 
ever and ever. Amen.’ And after putting Provi¬ 
dence upon his honour, so to speak, in this fashion, 
I felt less mentally distracted and got back into bed 
and presently I fell asleep.” 

Sarnac paused. 

“It’s all rather puzzling,” said Willow. 

“It seemed perfectly natural at the time,” said 

“That pork butcher was evidently a repulsive 
creature,” said Firefly. “Why didn’t they object to 

“Because the importance of the marriage cere¬ 
monial was so great in those days as to dominate 
the entire situation. I knew Crosby quite well; he 
was a cunning-faced, oily-mannered humbug with 
a bald head, fat red ears, a red complexion and a 
paunch. There are no such people in the world 
now; you must recall some incredible gross old- 
world caricature to imagine him. Nowadays you 
would as soon think of coupling the life of a girl 



with some gross heavy animal as with such a man. 
But that mattered nothing to my father or my 
mother. My mother I suspect rather liked the idea 
of the physical humiliation of Fanny. She no doubt 
had had her own humiliations—for the sexual life 
of this old world was a tangle of clumsy ignorances 
and secret shames. Except for my mother’s real 
hostility to Fanny I remember scarcely a scrap of 
any simple natural feeling, let alone any reasonable 
thinking, in all that terrible fuss they made. Men 
and women in those days were so much more com¬ 
plex and artificial than they are now; in a muddled 
way they were amazingly intricate. You know that 
monkeys, even young monkeys, have old and wrin¬ 
kled faces, and it is equally true that in the Age of 
Confusion life was so perplexing and irrational that 
while we were still children our minds were already 
old and wrinkled. Even to my boyish observation 
it was clear that my father was acting the whole 
time; he was behaving as he imagined he was ex¬ 
pected to behave. Never for a moment either when 
drunk or sober did he even attempt to find out, 
much less to express, what he was feeling naturally 
about Fanny. He was afraid to do so. And that 
night we were all acting—all of us. We were all 
afraid to do anything but act in what we imagined 
would be regarded as a virtuous role.” 

“But what were you afraid of?” asked Radiant. 
“Why did you act?” 

“I don’t know. Afraid of blame. Afraid of the 
herd. A habit of fear. A habit of inhibition.” 

“What was the objection to the real lover?” asked 
Firefly. “I don’t understand all this indignation.” 



“They guessed rightly enough that he did not 
intend to marry Fanny.” 

“What sort of a man was he?” 

“I never saw him until many years afterwards. 
But I will tell you about that when I come to it.” 

“Was he—the sort of man one could love?” 

“Fanny loved him. She had every reason to do 
so. He took care of her. He got her the education 
she craved for. He gave her a life full of interest. 
I believe he was an honest and delightful man.” 

“They stuck to each other?” 


“Then why didn’t he marry her—if it was the 

“He was married already. Marriage had embit¬ 
tered him. It embittered many people. He’d been 
cheated. He had been married by a woman who 
pretended love to impose herself upon him and his 
fortunes and he had found her out.” 

“Not a very difficult discovery,” said Firefly. 


“But why couldn’t they divorce?” 

“In those days it took two to make a divorce. 
She wouldn’t let him loose. She just stuck on and 
lived on his loneliness. If he had been poor he 
would probably have tried to murder her, but as 
it happened he had the knack of success and he 
was rich. Rich people could take liberties with 
marriage-restrictions that were absolutely impossible 
for the poor. And he was, I should guess, sensitive, 
affectionate and energetic. Heaven knows what sort 
of mind he was in when he came upon Fanny. He 
‘picked her up,’ as people used to say casually. The 



old world was full of such pitiful adventures in 
encounter. Almost always they meant disaster, but 
this was an exceptional case. Perhaps it was as 
lucky for him that he met her as it was for her that 
she met him. Fanny, you know, was one of those 
people you have to be honest with; she was acute 
and simple; she cut like a clean sharp knife. They 
were both in danger and want; the ugliest chances 
might have happened to her and he was far gone 
on the way to promiscuity and complete sexual 
degradation. . . . But I can’t go off on Fanny’s 
story. In the end she probably married him. They 
were going to marry. In some way the other woman 
did at last make it possible.” 

“But why don’t you know for certain?” 

“Because I was shot before that happened. If 
it happened at all.” 

§ 6 

“No!” cried Sarnac, stopping a question from 
Willow by a gesture. 

“I shall never tell my story,” said Sarnac, “if you 
interrupt with questions. I was telling you of the 
storm of misfortunes that wrecked our household 
at Cherry Gardens. . . . 

“My father was killed within three weeks of 
Fanny’s elopement. He was killed upon the road 
between Cherry Gardens and Cliffstone. There was 
a young gentleman named Wickersham with one 
of the new petrol-driven motor-cars that were just 
coming into use; he was hurrying home as fast as 
possible, he told the coroner, because his brakes were 
out of order and he was afraid of an accident. My 



father was walking with my uncle along the pave¬ 
ment, talking. He found the pavement too restricted 
for his subject and gestures, and he stepped off 
suddenly into the roadway and was struck by the 
car from behind and knocked headlong and instantly 

"The effect upon my uncle was very profound. 
For some days he was thoughtful and sober and he 
missed a race-meeting. He was very helpful over 
the details of the funeral. 

“ 'You can’t say ’e wasn’t prepared, Marth,’ he 
told my mother. ‘You can’t say ’e wasn’t prepared. 
Very moment ’e -was killed, ’e ’ad the name ’v’ Provi¬ 
dence on ’is lips. ’Ed been saying ’ow sorely ’e’d 
been tried by this and that.’ 

“ ' ’E wasn’t the only one,’ said my mother. 

“ ' ’E was saying ’e knew it was only to teach ’im 
some lesson though he couldn’t rightly say what 
the lesson was. ’E was convinced that everything 
that ’appened to us, good though it seemed or bad 
though it seemed, was surely for the best. . . .’ 

“My uncle paused dramatically. 

“ ‘And then the car ’it ’im,’ said my mother, trying 
to picture the scene. 

“ ‘Then the car ’it ’im,’ said my uncle.” 



§ 1 

“In those days,” said Sarnac, “the great majority 
of the dead were put into coffins and buried under¬ 
ground. Some few people were burnt, but that was 
an innovation and contrary to the very materialistic 
religious ideas of the time. This was a world in 
which you must remember people were still repeat¬ 
ing in perfect good faith a creed which included 
The resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.’ 
Intellectually old Egypt and her dreaming mummies 
still ruled the common people of the European 
world. The Christian creeds were themselves mum¬ 
mies from Lower Egypt. As my father said on one 
occasion when he was discussing this question of 
cremation: Tt might prove a bit orkward at the 
Resurrection. Like not ’aving a proper wedding 
garment so to speak. . . . 

“ ‘Though there’s Sharks,’ said my father, whose 
mental transitions were sometimes abrupt. ‘And 
them as ’ave been eat by lions. Many of the best 
Christian martyrs in their time was eat by lions. 
. . . They’d certainly be given bodies. . . . 

“ ‘And if one is given a body, why not another?’ 
said my father, lifting mild and magnified eyes in 

“ ‘It’s a difficult question,’ my father decided. 




“At any rate there was no discussion of cremation 
in his case. We had a sort of hearse-coach with a 
place for the coffin in front to take him to the ceme¬ 
tery, and in this vehicle my mother and Prue trav¬ 
elled also; my elder brother Ernest, who had come 
down from London for the occasion, and my uncle 
and I walked ahead and waited for it at the ceme¬ 
tery gates and followed the coffin to the grave-side. 
We were all in black clothes, even black gloves, in 
spite of the fact that we were wretchedly poor. 

“ ‘ ’Twon’t be my last visit to this place this year/ 
said my uncle despondently, ‘not if Adelaide goes 
on as she’s doing . 5 

“Ernest was silent. He disliked my uncle and 
was brooding over him. From the moment of his 
arrival he had shown a deepening objection to my 
uncle’s existence. 

“ ‘There’s luck they say in funerals,’ said my uncle 
presently, striking a brighter note. ‘Fi keep my eye 
open I dessay I may get a ’int of somethin’.’ 

“Ernest remained dour. 

“We followed the men carrying the coffin towards 
the cemetery chapel in a little procession led by Mr. 
Snapes in his clerical robes. He began to read out 
words that I realised were beautiful and touching 
and that concerned strange and faraway things: 
‘I am the Resurrection and the Life. He that 
believeth in Me though he were dead yet shall he 
live. . . .’ 

“ ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth and that He 
shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. . . .’ 

“ ‘We brought nothing into this world, and it is 
certain we can carry nothing out. The Lord gave, 


and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the Name 
of the Lord.’ 

“Suddenly I forgot the bickerings of my uncle 
and brother and was overcome with tenderness and 
grief for my father. A rush from my memory of 
many clumsy kindlinesses, a realisation of the loss 
of his companionship came to me. I recalled the 
happiness of many of my Sunday tramps by his side 
in spring-time, on golden summer evenings, in win¬ 
ter when the frost had picked out every twig in the 
downland hedgerows. I thought of his endless edi¬ 
fying discourses about flowers and rabbits and hill¬ 
sides and distant stars. And he was gone. I should 
never hear his voice again. I should never see again 
his dear old eyes magnified to an immense wonder 
through his spectacles. I should never have a chance 
of telling him how I cared for him. And I had never 
told him I cared for him. Indeed, I had never real¬ 
ised I cared for him until now. He was lying stiff 
and still and submissive in that coffin, a rejected 
man. Life had treated him badly. He had never 
had a dog’s chance. My mind leapt forward beyond 
my years and I understood what a tissue of petty 
humiliations and disappointments and degradations 
his life had been. I saw then as clearly as I see now 
the immense pity of such a life. Sorrow possessed 
me. I wept as I stumbled along after him. I had 
great difficulty in preventing myself from weeping 

§ 2 

“After the funeral my brother Ernest and my 
uncle had a violent wrangle about my mother’s 



future. Seeing that my Aunt Adelaide was for all 
practical purposes done for, my uncle suggested that 
he should sell up most of his furniture, ‘bring his 
capital’ into the greengrocery business and come 
and live with his sister. But my brother declared 
that the greengrocery business was a dying concern, 
and was for my mother moving into a house in Cliff- 
stone when she might let lodgings. Prue would be 
‘no end of a ’elp’ in that. At first this was opposed 
by my uncle and then he came round to the idea on 
condition that he participated in the benefits of 
the scheme, but this Ernest opposed, asking rather 
rudely what sort of help my uncle supposed he 
would be in a lodging-house. ‘Let alone you’re never 
out of bed before ten,’ he said, though how he knew 
of this fact did not appear. 

“Ernest had been living in London, working at 
a garage; he drove hired cars by the month or job, 
and his respect for the upper classes had somehow 
disappeared. The dignity of Sir John ffrench-Cuth- 
bertson at secondhand left him cold and scornful. 
‘You ain’t going to ’ave my mother to work for you 
and wait on you, no’ow,’ he said. 

“While this dispute went on my mother with 
the assistance of Prue was setting out the cold col¬ 
lation which in those days was the redeeming feature 
of every funeral. There was cold ham and chicken. 
My uncle abandoned his position of vantage on my 
father’s rag hearthrug and we all sat down to our 
exceptional meal. 

“For some little time the cold ham and chicken 
made a sort of truce between my brother Ernest and 
my uncle, but presently my uncle sighed, drank off 



his beer and reopened the argument. ‘You know I 
think, Marth,’ he said, spearing a potato from the 
dish neatly with his fork, ‘you ought to ’ave some 
voice in what is going to become of you. Me and 
this young man from London’ve been ’aving a bit 
of a difference ’bout what you ought to do.’ 

“I realised abruptly from the expression of my 
mother’s white face, a sort of white intentness which 
her widow’s cap seemed to emphasise, that she was 
quite determined to have not only some voice but a 
decisive voice in this matter, but before she could 
say anything my brother Ernest had intervened. 

“ ‘It’s like this, mother,’ he said, ‘you got to do 
something, ’aven’t you?’ 

“My mother was about to reply when Ernest 
snatched a sort of assent from her and proceeded: 
‘Well, naturally I ask, what sort of thing can you 
do? And as naturally, I answer Lodgings. You 
carn’t expect to go on being a greengrocer, because 
that ain’t natural for a woman, considering the 
weights and coal that ’as to be lifted.’ 

“ ‘And could be lifted easy, with a man to ’elp 
’er,’ said my uncle. 

“ ‘If ’e was a man,’ said my brother Ernest with 
bitter sarcasm. 

“ ‘Meaning-?’ asked my uncle with cold 


“ ‘What I say,’ said brother Ernest. ‘No more, 
no less. So if you take my advice, mother, what 
you’ll do is this. You go down early to-morrow to 
Cliffstone to look for a suitable little ’ouse big 
enough to ’old lodgers and not so big as to break 
your back, and I’ll go and talk to Mr. Bulstrode 



about ending up your tenancy ’ere. Then we’ll be 
able to see where we are.’ 

“Again my mother attempted to speak and was 

“ ‘ ’Fyou think I’m going to be treated as a nonen¬ 
tity,’ said my uncle, ‘you’re making the biggest 
mistake you ever made in your life. See? Now 
you listen to me, Marth-’ 

“ ‘You shut up!’ said my brother. ‘Mother’s my 
business first and foremost.’ 

“ ‘Shut up!’ echoed my uncle. ‘Wot manners! 
At a funeral. From a chap not a third my age, a 
mere ’azardous empty boy. Shut up! You shut 
up yourself, my boy, and listen to those who know 
a bit more about life than you do. I’ve smacked 
your ’ed before to-day. Not once or twice either. 
And I warmed your ’ide when you stole them peaches 
—and much good it did you! I oughter’ve took 
yer skin off! You and me ’ave never got on much, 
and unless you keep a civil tongue in your head we 
ain’t going to get on now.’ 

“ ‘Seeing which,’ said brother Ernest with a dan¬ 
gerous calmness, ‘the sooner you make yourself 
scarce the better for all concerned.’ 

“ ‘Not to leave my on’y sister’s affairs in the ’ands 
of a cub like you.’ 

“Again my mother essayed to speak, but the angry 
voices disregarded her. 

“ ‘I tell you you’re going to get out, and if you 
can’t get out of your own discretion I warn you I’ll 
’ave to ’elp you.’ 

“ ‘Not when you’re in mourning,’ said my mother. 
‘Not wearing your mourning. And besides-’ 


“But they were both too heated now to attend 
to her. 

“ ‘You’re pretty big with your talk,’ said my uncle, 
‘but don’t you preshume too far on my forbearance. 
I’ve ’ad about enough of this.’ 

“ ‘So’ve I,’ said my brother Ernest and stood up. 

“My uncle stood up too and they glared at one 

“ ‘That’s the door,’ said my brother darkly. 

“My uncle walked back to his wonted place on 
the hearthrug. ‘Now don’t let’s ’ave any quarrelling 
on a day like this,’ he said. ‘If you ’aven’t any con¬ 
sideration for your mother you might at least think 
of ’im who has passed beyond. My objec’ ’ere is 
simply to try n’range things so’s be best for all. And 
what I say is this, the ideer of your mother going 
into a lodging-’ouse alone, without a man’s ’elp, is 
ridiculous, perfectly ridiculous, and only a first-class 
inconsiderate young fool-’ 

“My brother Ernest went and stood close to my 
uncle. ‘You’ve said enough,’ he remarked. ‘This 
affair’s between me and my mother and your motto 
is Get Out. See?’ 

“Again my mother had something to say and again 
she was silenced. “ ‘This is man’s work, mother,’ 
said Ernest. ‘Are you going to shift it, uncle?’ 

“My uncle faced up to this threat of Ernest. ‘I’ve 
a juty to my sister-’ 

“And then I regret to say my brother laid hands 
on him. He took him by the collar and by the wrist 
and for a moment the two black-clad figures swayed. 

“ ‘Lea’ go my coat,’ said my uncle. ‘Lea’ go my 
coat collar.’ 



“But a thirst for violence had taken possession 
of Ernest. My mother and Prue and I stood aghast. 

“ ‘Ernie!’ cried my mother, ‘You forget yourself!' 

“ ’Sail right, mother,’ said Ernie, and whirled my 
uncle violently from the hearthrug to the bottom 
of the staircase. Then he shifted his grip from my 
uncle’s wrist to the seat of his tight black trousers 
and partly lifted and partly impelled him up the 
staircase. My uncle’s arms waved wildly as if he 
clutched at his lost dignity. 

“‘John!’ cried my mother. ‘’Ere’s your ’at!’ 

“I had a glimpse of my uncle’s eye as he vanished 
up the staircase. He seemed to be looking for his 
hat. But he was now offering no serious opposition 
to my brother Ernest’s handling of him. 

“ ‘Give it ’im, ’Arry,’ said my mother. ‘And 
there’s ’is gloves too.’ 

“I took the black hat and the black gloves and 
followed the struggle upstairs. Astonished and un¬ 
resisting, my uncle was propelled through the front 
door into the street and stood there panting and 
regarding my brother. His collar was torn from its 
stud and his black tie disarranged. Ernest was 
breathing heavily. ‘Now you be orf and mind your 
own business,’ said Ernie. 

“Ernie turned with a start as I pushed past him. 
‘ ’Ere’s your ’at and gloves, uncle,’ I said, handing 
them to him. He took them mechanically, his eyes 
still fixed on Ernest. 

“ ‘And you’re the boy I trained to be ’onest,’ 
said my uncle to my brother Ernest, very bitterly. 
‘Leastways I tried to. You’re the young worm I 


fattened up at my gardens and showed such kind¬ 
ness to! Gratitood!’ 

“He regarded the hat in his hand for a moment 
as though it was some strange object, and then by 
a happy inspiration put it on his head. 

“ ‘God ’elp your poor mother,’ said my Uncle John 
Julip. ‘God ’elp ’er.’ 

“He had nothing more to say. He looked up the 
street and down and then turned as by a sort of 
necessity in the direction of the Wellington public- 
house. And in this manner was my Uncle John 
Julip on the day of my father’s funeral cast forth 
into the streets of Cherry Gardens, a prospective 
widower and a most pathetic and unhappy little 
man. That dingy little black figure in retreat still 
haunts my memory. Even from the back he looked 
amazed. Never did a man who has not been kicked 
look so like a man who has been. I never saw him 
again. I have no doubt that he carried his sorrows 
down to the Wellington and got himself thoroughly 
drunk, and I have as little doubt that he missed my 
father dreadfully all the time he was doing so. 

“My brother Ernest returned thoughtfully to the 
kitchen. He was already a little abashed at his own 
violence. I followed him respectfully. 

“ ‘You didn’t ought t’ave done that,’ said my 

“ ‘What right ’as ’e to plant ’imself on you to be 
kept and waited on?’ 

“ ‘ ’E wouldn’t ’ave planted ’imself on me,’ my 
mother replied. ‘You get ’eated, Ernie, same as you 
used to do, and you won’t listen to anything.’ 

“ ‘I never did fancy uncle,’ said Ernie. 



“ ‘When you get ’eated, Ernie, you seem to forget 
everything/ said my mother. ‘You might’ve remem¬ 
bered ’e was my brother.’ 

“ ‘Fine brother!’ said Ernie. ‘Why!—who started 
all that stealing? Who led poor father to drink 
and bet?’ 

“ ‘All the same/ said my mother, ‘you ’adn’t no 
right to ’andle ’im as you did. And your poor father 
’ardly cold in ’is grave!’ She wept. She produced 
a black-bordered handkerchief and mopped her eyes. 
‘I did ’ope your poor father would ’ave a nice funeral 
—all the trouble and expense—and now you’ve 
spoilt it. I’ll never be able to look back on this day 
with pleasure, not if I live to be a ’undred years. I’ll 
always remember ’ow you spoilt your own father’s 
funeral—turning on your uncle like this.’ 

“Ernest had no answer for her reproaches. ‘He 
shouldn’t ’ve argued and said what he did,’ he 

“ ‘And all so unnecessary! All along I’ve been 
trying to tell you you needn’t worry about me. I 
don’t want no lodging-’ouse in Cliffston e—with your 
uncle or without your uncle. I wrote to Matilda 
Good a week come Tuesday and settled everything 
with ’er—everything. It’s settled.’ 

“ ‘What d’you mean?’ asked Ernest. 

“ ‘Why, that ’ouse of hers in Pimlico. She’s been 
wanting trusty ’elp for a long time, what with her 
varicose veins up and downstairs and one thing 
’nother, and directly she got my letter about your 
poor dear father she wrote orf to me. “You need 
never want a ’ome,” she says, “so long as I got a 
lodger. You and Prue are welcome,” she says, “wel- 



come ’elp, and the boy can easy find work up ’ere— 
much easier than ’e can in Cliffstone.” All the time 
you was planning lodging-’ouses and things for me 
I was trying to tell you-’ 

“ ‘You mean it’s settled?’ 

“ ‘It’s settled.’ 

“ ‘And what you going to do with your bits of 
furniture ’ere?’ 

“ ‘Sell some and take some. . . .’ 

“ ‘It’s feasible/ said Ernest after reflection. 

“And so we needn’t reely ’ave ’ad that—bit of a’ 
argument?’ said Ernest after a pause. ‘Not me and 

“ ‘Not on my account you needn’t,’ said my 

“ ‘Well—we ’ad it,’ said Ernest after another pause 
and without any visible signs of regret.” 

§ 3 

“If my dream was a dream,” said Sarnac, “it 
was a most circumstantial dream. I could tell you 
a hundred details of our journey to London and how 
we disposed of the poor belongings that had fur¬ 
nished our home in Cherry Gardens. Every detail 
would expose some odd and illuminating difference 
between the ideas of those ancient days and our own 
ideas. Brother Ernest was helpful, masterful and 
irascible. He got a week’s holiday from his employer 
to help mother to settle up things, and among other 
things that were settled up I believe my mother 
persuaded him and my uncle to ‘shake hands,’ but I 
do not know the particulars of that great scene, I did 



not see it, it was merely mentioned in my hearing 
during the train journey to London. I would like to 
tell you also of the man who came round to buy most 
of our furniture, including that red and black sofa 
I described to you, and how he and my brother had 
a loud and heated argument about some damage to 
one of its legs, and how Mr. Crosby produced a bill, 
that my mother understood he had forgiven us on 
account of Fanny long ago. There was also some 
point about something called ‘tenant’s fixtures’ that 
led my brother and the landlord, Mr. Bulstrode, to 
the verge of violence. And Mr. Bulstrode, the land¬ 
lord, brought accusations of damage done to the 
fabric of his house that were false, and he made 
extravagant claims for compensation based thereon 
and had to be rebutted with warmth. There was 
also trouble over carting a parcel of our goods to the 
railway station, and when we got to the terminus 
of Victoria in London it was necessary, I gathered, 
that Ernest should offer to fight a railway porter 
—you have read of railway porters?—before we 
received proper attention. 

“But I cannot tell you all these curious and typical 
incidents now because at that rate I should never 
finish my story before our holidays are over. I must 
go on now to tell you of this London, this great city, 
the greatest city it was in the world in those days, 
to which we had transferred our fates. All the rest 
of my story, except for nearly two years and a half 
I spent in the training camp and in France and 
Germany during the First World War, is set in the 
scenery of London. You know already what a vast 
congestion of human beings London was; you know 



that within a radius of fifteen miles a population 
of seven and a half million people were gathered 
together, people born out of due time into a world 
unready for them and born mostly through the sheer 
ignorance of their procreators, gathered together 
into an area of not very attractive clay country by 
an urgent need to earn a living, and you know the 
terrible fate that at last overwhelmed this sinfully 
crowded accumulation; you have read of west-end 
and slums, and you have seen the cinema pictures 
of those days showing crowded streets, crowds gap¬ 
ing at this queer ceremony or that, a vast traffic of 
clumsy automobiles and distressed horses in narrow 
unsuitable streets, and I suppose your general im¬ 
pression is a nightmare of multitudes, a suffocating 
realisation of jostling discomfort and uncleanness 
and of an unendurable strain on eye and ear and 
attention. The history we learn in our childhood 
enforces that lesson. 

“But though the facts are just as we are taught 
they were, I do not recall anything like the distress 
at London you would suppose me to have felt, and 
I do remember vividly the sense of adventure, the 
intellectual excitement and the discovery of beauty 
I experienced in going there. You must remember 
that in this strange dream of mine I had forgotten 
all our present standards; I accepted squalor and 
confusion as being in the nature of things, and the 
aspects of this city’s greatness, the wonder of this 
limitless place and a certain changing and evanes¬ 
cent beauty, rise out of a sea of struggle and limita¬ 
tion as forgetfully as a silver birch rises out of the 
swamp that bears it. 



“The part of London in which we took up our 
abode was called Pimlico. It bordered upon the 
river, and once there had been a wharf there to 
which ships came across the Atlantic from America. 
This word Pimlico had come with other trade in 
these ships; in my time it was the last word left 
alive of the language of the Algonquin Red Indians, 
who had otherwise altogether vanished from the 
earth. The Pimlico wharf had gone, the American 
trade was forgotten, and Pimlico was now a great 
wilderness of streets of dingy grey houses in which 
people lived and let lodgings. These houses had 
never been designed for the occupation of lodgers; 
they were faced with a lime-plaster called stucco 
which made a sort of pretence of being stone ; each 
one had a sunken underground floor originally in¬ 
tended for servants, a door with a portico and several 
floors above which were reached by a staircase. 
Beside each portico was a railed pit that admitted 
light to the front underground room. As you walked 
along these Pimlico streets these porticos receded 
in long perspectives and each portico of that endless 
series represented ten or a dozen misdirected, incom¬ 
plete and rather unclean inhabitants, infected men¬ 
tally and morally. Over the grey and dingy archi¬ 
tecture rested a mist or a fog, rarely was there a 
precious outbreak of sunlight; here and there down 
the vista a grocer’s boy or a greengrocer’s boy or a 
fish hawker would be handing in food over the rail¬ 
ings to the subterranean members of a household, 
or a cat (there was a multitude of cats) would be 
peeping out of the railings alert for the danger of 
a passing dog. There would be a few pedestrians, 



a passing cab or so, and perhaps in the morning 
a dust-cart collecting refuse filth—set out for the 
winds to play with in boxes and tin receptacles at 
the pavement edge—or a man in a uniform cleaning 
the streets with a hose. It seems to you that it must 
have been the most depressing of spectacles. It 
wasn’t, though I doubt if I can make clear to you 
that it wasn’t. I know I went about Pimlico think¬ 
ing it rather a fine place and endlessly interesting. 
I assure you that in the early morning and by my 
poor standards it had a sort of grey spaciousness 
and dignity. But afterwards I found the thing 
far better done, that London architectural aquatint, 
in Belgravia and round about Regent’s Park. 

“I must admit that I tended to drift out of those 
roads and squares of lodging-houses either into the 
streets where there were shops and street-cars or 
southward to the Embankment along the Thames. 
It was the shops and glares that drew me first as 
the lights began to fail and, strange as it may seem 
to you, my memories of such times are rich with 
beauty. We feeble children of that swarming age 
had, I think, an almost morbid gregariousness; we 
found a subtle pleasure and reassurance in crowds 
and a real disagreeableness in being alone; and my 
impressions of London’s strange interest and charm 
are, I confess, very often crowded impressions of a 
kind this world no longer produces, or impressions 
to which a crowded foreground or background was 
essential. But they were beautiful. 

“For example there was a great railway station, 
a terminus, within perhaps half a mile of us. There 
was a great disorderly yard in front of the station 



in which hackney automobiles and omnibuses assem¬ 
bled and departed and arrived. In the late twilight 
of an autumn day this yard was a mass of shifting 
black shadows and gleams and lamps, across which 
streamed an incessant succession of bobbing black 
heads, people on foot hurrying to catch the trains: 
as they flitted by the lights one saw their faces gleam 
and vanish again. Above this foreground rose the 
huge brown-grey shapes of the station buildings 
and the facade of a big hotel, reflecting the flares 
below and pierced here and there by a lit window; 
then very sharply came the sky-line and a sky still 
blue and luminous, tranquil and aloof. And the 
innumerable sounds of people and vehicles wove into 
a deep, wonderful and continually varying drone. 
Even to my boyish mind there was an irrational 
conviction of unity and purpose in this spectacle. 

“The streets where there were shops were also 
very wonderful and lovely to me directly the too- 
lucid and expository daylight began to fade. The 
variously coloured lights in the shop-windows which 
displayed a great diversity of goods for sale splashed 
the most extraordinary reflections upon the pave¬ 
ments and roadway, and these were particularly 
gem-like if there had been rain or a mist to wet 
the reflecting surfaces. One of these streets—it was 
called Lupus Street, though why it had the name 
of an abominable skin disease that has long since 
vanished from the earth I cannot imagine—was close 
to our new home and I still remember it as full of 
romantic effectiveness. By daylight it was an ex¬ 
ceedingly sordid street, and late at night empty and 
echoing, but in the magic hours of London it was a 



bed of black and luminous flowers, the abounding 
people became black imps and through it wallowed 
the great shining omnibuses, the ships of the street, 
filled with light and reflecting lights. 

“There were endless beauties along the river bank. 
The river was a tidal one held in control by a stone 
embankment, and the roadway along the embank¬ 
ment was planted at the footway edge with plane 
trees and lit by large electric lights on tall standards. 
These planes were among the few trees that could 
flourish in the murky London air, but they were un¬ 
suitable trees to have in a crowded city because 
they gave off minute specules that irritated people’s 
throats. That, however, I did not know; what I did 
know was that the shadows of the leaves on the 
pavements thrown by the electric glares made the 
most beautiful patterings I had ever seen. I would 
walk along on a warm night rejoicing in them, more 
particularly if now and then a light breeze set them 
dancing and quivering. 

“One could walk from Pimlico along this Thames 
Embankment for some miles towards the east. One 
passed little black jetties with dangling oil lamps; 
there was a traffic of barges and steamers on the 
river altogether mysterious and romantic to me; 
the frontages of the houses varied incessantly, and 
ever and again were cleft by crowded roadways 
that brought a shining and twinkling traffic up to 
the bridges. Across the river was a coming and 
going of trains along a railway viaduct; it contrib¬ 
uted a restless motif of clanks and concussion to 
the general drone of London, and the engines sent 
puffs of firelit steam and sudden furnace-glows into 



the night. One came along this Embankment to 
the great buildings at Westminster, by daylight a 
pile of imitation Gothic dominated by a tall clock- 
tower with an illuminated dial, a pile which assumed 
a blue dignity with the twilight and became a noble 
portent standing at attention, a forest of spears, 
in the night. This was the Parliament House, and 
in its chambers a formal King, an ignoble nobility 
and a fraudulently elected gathering of lawyers, 
financiers and adventurers took upon themselves, 
amidst the general mental obscurity of those days, 
a semblance of wisdom and empire. As one went 
on beyond Westminster along the Embankment 
came great grey-brown palaces and houses set behind 
green gardens, a railway bridge and then two huge 
hotels, standing high and far back, bulging with 
lit windows; there was some sort of pit or waste 
beneath them, I forget what, very black, so that 
at once they loomed over one and seemed magically 
remote. There was an Egyptian obelisk here, for 
all the European capitals of my time, being as honest 
as magpies and as original as monkeys, had adorned 
themselves with obelisks stolen from Egypt. And 
farther along was the best and noblest building in 
London, St. Paul’s Cathedral; it was invisible by 
night, but it was exceedingly serene and beautiful 
on a clear, blue, windy day. And some of the 
bridges were very lovely with gracious arches of 
smutty grey stone, though some were so clumsy that 
only night could redeem them. 

“As I talk I remember,” said Sarnac. “Before 
employment robbed me of my days I pushed my 
boyish explorations far and wide, wandering all 



day and often going without any meal, or, if I was 
in pocket, getting a bun and a glass of milk in some 
small shop for a couple of pennies. The shop- 
windows of London were an unending marvel to 
me; and they would be to you too if you could 
remember them as I do; there must have been 
hundreds of miles of them, possibly thousands of 
miles. In the poorer parts they were chiefly food- 
shops and cheap clothing shops and the like, and one 
could exhaust their interest, but there were thor¬ 
oughfares like Regent Street and Piccadilly and 
narrow Bond Street and Oxford Street crammed 
with all the furnishings of the life of the lucky 
minority, the people who could spend freely. You 
will find it difficult to imagine how important a 
matter the mere buying of things was in the lives 
of those people. In their houses there was a vast 
congestion of objects neither ornamental nor useful; 
purchases in fact; and the women spent large por¬ 
tions of every week-day in buying things, clothes, 
table-litter, floor-litter, wall-litter. They had no 
work; they were too ignorant to be interested in any 
real thing; they had nothing else to do. That was 
the world’s reward, the substance of success—pur¬ 
chases. Through them you realised your well-being. 
As a shabby half-grown boy I pushed my way among 
these spenders, crowds of women dressed, wrapped 
up rather, in layer after layer of purchases, scented, 
painted. Most of them were painted to suggest a 
health-flushed face, the nose powdered a leprous 

“There is one thing to be said for the old fashion 
of abundant clothing; in that crowded jostling 


world it saved people from actually touching each 

“I would push through these streets eastward to 
less prosperous crowds in Oxford Street and to a 
different multitude in Holborn. As you went east¬ 
ward the influence of women diminished and that 
of young men increased. Cheapside gave you all 
the material for building up a twentieth-century 
young man from the nude. In the shop-windows 
he was disarticulated and priced: hat five and six¬ 
pence, trousers eighteen shillings, tie one and six; 
cigarettes tenpence an ounce; newspaper a half¬ 
penny, cheap novel sevenpence; on the pavement 
outside there he was put together and complete and 
the cigarette burning, under the impression that he 
was a unique immortal creature and that the ideas 
in his head were altogether his own. And beyond 
Cheapside there was Clerkenwell with curious little 
shops that sold scarcely anything but old keys or 
the parts of broken-up watches or the like detached 
objects. Then there were great food markets at 
Leadenhall Street and Smithfield and Covent 
Garden, incredible accumulations of raw stuff. At 
Covent Garden they sold fruits and flowers that we 
should think poor and undeveloped, but which 
everyone in those days regarded as beautiful and 
delicious. And in Caledonian Market were innu¬ 
merable barrows where people actually bought and 
took away every sort of broken and second-hand 
rubbish, broken ornaments, decaying books with 
torn pages, second-hand clothing—a wonderland of 
litter for any boy with curiosity in his blood. . . . 

“But I could go on talking endlessly about this 



old London of mine and you want me to get on 
with my story. I have tried to give you something 
of its endless, incessant, multitudinous glittering 
quality and the way in which it yielded a thousand 
strange and lovely effects to its changing lights and 
atmosphere. I found even its fogs, those dreaded 
fogs of which the books tell, romantic. But then 
I was a boy at the adventurous age. The fog was 
often very thick in Pimlico. It was normally a soft 
creamy obscurity that turned even lights close at 
hand into luminous blurs. People came out of 
nothingness within six yards of you, were riddles 
and silhouettes before they became real. One could 
go out and lose oneself within ten minutes of home 
and perhaps pick up with a distressed automobile 
driver and walk by his headlights, signalling to him 
where the pavement ended. That was one sort of 
fog, the dry fog. But there were many sorts. There 
was a sort of yellow darkness, like blackened bronze, 
that hovered about you and did not embrace you and 
left a clear nearer world of deep browns and blacks. 
And there was an unclean wet mist that presently 
turned to drizzle and made every surface a mirror.” 

“And there was daylight,” said Willow, “some¬ 
times surely there was daylight.” 

“Yes,” Sarnac reflected; “there was daylight. At 
times. And sometimes there was quite a kindly 
and redeeming sunshine in London. In the spring, 
in early summer or in October. It did not blaze, 
but it filled the air with a mild warmth, and turned 
the surfaces it lit not indeed to gold but to amber 
and topaz. And there were even hot days in Lon¬ 
don with skies of deep blue above, but they were 


rare. And sometimes there was daylight without 
the sun. . . . 

“Yes,” said Sarnac and paused. “At times there 
was a daylight that stripped London bare, showed 
its grime, showed its real ineffectiveness, showed 
the pitiful poverty of intention in its buildings, 
showed the many coloured billstickers’ hoardings for 
the crude and leprous things they were, brought out 
the shabbiness of unhealthy bodies and misfitting 
garments. . . . 

“Those were terrible, veracious, unhappy days. 
When London no longer fascinated but wearied and 
offended, when even to an uninstructed boy there 
came some intimation of the long distressful journey 
that our race had still to travel before it attained 
even to such peace and health and wisdom as it 
has to-day.” 

§ 4 

Sarnac stopped short in his talk and rose with 
something between a laugh and a sigh. He stood 
facing westward and Sunray stood beside him. 

“This story will go on for ever if I digress like 
this. See! the sun will be behind that ridge in 
another ten minutes. I cannot finish this evening, 
because most of the story part still remains to be 

“There are roast fowls with sweet corn and chest¬ 
nuts,” said Firefly. “Trout and various fruits.” 

“And some of that golden wine?” said Radiant. 

“Some of that golden wine.” 

Sunray, who had been very still and intent, awoke. 


“Sarnac dear,” she said, slipping her arm through 
his. “What became of Uncle John Julip?” 

Sarnac reflected. “I forget,” he said. 

“Aunt Adelaide Julip died?” asked Willow. 

“She died quite soon after we left Cherry Gardens. 
My uncle wrote, I remember, and I remember my 
mother reading the letter at breakfast like a proc¬ 
lamation and saying, ‘Seems if she was reely ill 
after all.’ If she had not been ill then surely she 
had carried malingering to the last extremity. But 
I forget any particulars about my uncle’s departure 
from this world. He probably outlived my mother, 
and after her death the news of his end might easily 
have escaped me.” 

“You have had the most wonderful dream in 
the world, Sarnac,” said Starlight, “and I want to 
hear the whole story and not interrupt, but I am 
sorry not to hear more of your Uncle John Julip.” 

“He was such a perfect little horror,” said 
Firefly. . . . 

Until the knife-edge of the hills cut into the mol¬ 
ten globe of the sun, the holiday-makers lingered 
watching the shadows in their last rush up to the 
mountain crests, and then, still talking of this par¬ 
ticular and that in Sarnac’s story, the six made their 
way down to the guest-house and supper. 

“Sarnac was shot,” said Radiant. “He hasn’t 
even begun to get shot yet. There is no end of 
story still to come.” 

“Sarnac,” asked Firefly, “you weren’t killed in 
the Great War, were you? Suddenly? In some 
inconsequent sort of way?” 

“Not a bit of it,” said Sarnac. “I am really 



beginning to be shot in this story though Radiant 
does not perceive it. But I must tell my story in 
my own fashion.” 

At supper what was going on was explained to 
the master of the guest-house. Like so many of 
these guest-house-keepers he was a jolly, convivial, 
simple soul, and he was amused and curious at Sar- 
nac’s alleged experience. He laughed at the im¬ 
patience of the others; he said they were like chil¬ 
dren in a Children’s Garden, agog for their go-to-bed 
fairy-tale. After they had had coffee they went out 
for a time to see the moolight mingle with the ruddy 
afterglow above the peaks; and then the guest- 
master led the w T ay in, made up a blazing pinewood 
fire and threw cushions before it, set out an after- 
dinner wine, put out the lights and prepared for a 
good night’s story-telling. 

Sarnac remained thoughtful, looking into the 
flames until Sunray set him off again by whispering: 

§ 5 

“I will tell you as briefly as I can of the household 
in Pimlico where we joined forces with my mother’s 
old friend, Matilda Good,” said Sarnac; “but I con¬ 
fess it is hard to be reasonably brief when one’s 
mind is fuller of curious details than this fire is of 

“That’s excellent!” said the master of the guest¬ 
house. “That’s a perfect story-teller’s touch!” and 
looked brightly for Sarnac to continue. 

“But we are all beginning to believe that he has 
been there,” whispered Radiant, laying a restraining 



hand on the guest-master’s knee. “And he”— 
Radiant spoke behind his hand—“he believes it 

“Not really?” whispered the guest-master. He 
seemed desirous of asking difficult questions and 
then subsided into an attention that was at first a 
little constrained and presently quite involuntary. 

“These houses in Pimlico were part of an enor¬ 
mous proliferation of houses that occurred between 
a hundred years and seventy years before the Great 
War. There was a great amount of unintelligent 
building enterprise in those decades in London, and 
at the building, as I have already told you, I think, 
was done on the supposition that there was an end¬ 
less supply of fairly rich families capable of occupy¬ 
ing a big house and employing three or four domestic 
servants. There were underground kitchens and 
servants’ rooms, there was a dining-room and mas¬ 
ter’s study at the ground level, there was a ‘drawing- 
room floor’ above, two rooms convertible into one 
by a device known as folding doors, and above this 
were bedrooms on a scale of diminishing importance 
until one came to attics without fire-places in which 
the servants were to sleep. In large areas and par¬ 
ticularly in Pimlico, these fairly rich families of the 
builder’s imagination, with servile domestics all 
complete, never appeared to claim the homes pre¬ 
pared for them, and from the first, poorer people, 
for whom of course no one had troubled to plan 
houses, adapted these porticoed plaster mansions 
to their own narrower needs. My mother’s friend, 
Matilda Good, was a quite typical Pimlico house¬ 
holder. She had been the trusted servant of a rich 



old lady in Cliffstone who had died and left her two 
or three hundred pounds of money-” 

The master of the guest-house was endlessly per¬ 
plexed and made an interrogative noise. 

“Private property,” said Radiant very rapidly. 
“Power of bequest. Two thousand years ago. 
Made a Will, you know. Go on, Sarnac.” 

“With that and her savings,” said Sarnac, “she 
was able to become tenant of one of these Pimlico 
houses and to furnish it with a sort of shabby gen¬ 
tility. She lived herself in the basement below and 
in the attic above, and all the rest of the house she 
had hoped to let in pieces, floor by floor or room 
by room, to rich or at least prosperous old ladies, 
and to busy herself in tending them and supplying 
their needs and extracting a profit and living out of 
them, running up and down her staircase as an ant 
runs up and dowm a rose stem tending its aphides. 
But old ladies of any prosperity did not come into 
Pimlico. It was low and foggy, the children of its 
poorer streets were rough and disrespectful, and it 
was close to the river embankment over which rich, 
useless old ladies naturally expected to be thrown. 
So Matilda Good had to console herself with less 
succulent and manageable lodgers. 

“I remember Matilda Good giving us an account 
of those she had as we sat in her front downstairs 
room having a kind of tea supper on the evening 
of our arrival. Ernest had declined refreshment 
and departed, his task as travel conductor done, but 
there were my mother and Prue and myself, all in 
dingy black and all a little stiff and strange, thawing 
slowly to tea and hot buttered toast with a poached 


egg each, our mouths very full and our eyes and 
ears very attentive to Matilda Good. 

“She appeared quite a grand lady to me that 
night. She was much larger than any lady I had 
hitherto been accustomed to; she had a breadth 
and variety of contour like scenery rather than a 
human being; the thought of her veins being vari¬ 
cose, indeed of all her anatomy being varicose and 
fantastic, seemed a right and proper one. She was 
dressed in black with outbreaks of soiled lace, a 
large gold-rimmed brooch fastened her dress at the 
neck and she had a gold chain about her, and on her 
head was what was called a ‘cap/ an affair like the 
lower shell of an oyster inverted, made of layers 
of dingy lace and adorned with a black velvet bow 
and a gold buckle. Her face had the same land¬ 
scape unanatomical quality as her body; she had 
a considerable moustache, an overhung slightly mis¬ 
chievous mouth and two different large dark-grey 
eyes with a slightly vertical cast in them and very 
marked eyelashes. She sat sideways. One eye 
looked at you rather sidelong, the other seemed to 
watch something over your head. She spoke in a 
whisper which passed very easily into wheezy, not 
unkindly laughter. 

“ ‘You’ll get no end of exercise on these stairs, 
my dear,’ she said to sister Prue, ‘no end of exercise. 
There’s times when I’m going up to bed when I 
start counting ’em, just to make sure that they aren’t 
taking in lodgers like the rest of us. There’s no 
doubt this ’ouse will strengthen your legs, my dear. 
Mustn’t get ’em too big and strong for the rest of 
you. But you can easy manage that by carrying 



something, carrying something every time you go 
up or down. Ugh—ugh. That’ll equalise you. 
There’s always something to carry, boots it is, hot 
water it is, a scuttle of coals or a parcel.’ 

“ T expect it’s a busy ’ouse,’ said my mother, 
eating her buttered toast like a lady. 

“ ‘It’s a toilsome ’ouse,’ said Matilda Good. T 
don’t want to deceive you, Martha; it’s a toilsome 

“ ‘But it’s a ’ouse that keeps full/ said Matilda 
Good, challenging me with one eye and ignoring 
me with the other. ‘Full I am now, and full I’ve 
been since last Michaelmas, full right up; two 
permanents I’ve ’ad three years on end and those 
my best floors. I’ve something to be thankful for, 
all things considered, and now I got ’elp of a sort 
that won’t slide downstairs on a tea tray or lick the 
ground-floor’s sugar lump by lump knowing the 
lumps was counted and never thinking that wetness 
tells, the slut! we’ll get on swimmingly. The sluts 
I’ve ’ad, Martha! These board-schools turn them 
out a ’orror to God and a danger to men. I can’t 
tell you. It’s a comfort to set eyes on any girl as 
I can see at once ’as been brought up to take a 
pride in ’erself. ’Ave a little of that watercress with 
your toast, my dear. It’ll do that complexion of 
yours good.’ 

“My sister Prue reddened and took some water¬ 

“ ‘The drawing-room floor,’ said Matilda Good, 
‘is a lady. It isn’t often you keep a lady three years, 
what with the things they know and the things they 
fancy they know, but I’ve kept her. She’s a real 



lady—born. Bumpus ’er name is—Miss Beatrice 
Bumpus. I don’t know whether you’ll like her, 
Martha, when you set eyes on her, but she’s got 
to be studied. She’s a particular sort of Warwick¬ 
shire Bumpus that hunts. She’ll ask you if you 
want the vote, Martha, directly she sees you’re a 
fresh face. It isn’t a vote or any old vote she asks 
you to want, it’s the vote.’ The whispering voice 
grew thicker and richer and a persuasive smile spread 
far and wide over the face. Tf it’s all the same to 
you, Martha, you better say you do.’ 

“My mother was sipping her fourth cup of tea. 
‘I don’t know,’ she said, ‘as I altogether ’old with 
this vote.’ 

“Matilda Good’s great red hands, which had been 
lying apparently detached in her lap, produced short 
arms and lace cuffs and waved about in the air, 
waving my mother’s objections away. ‘ ’Old with 
it on the drawing-room floor,’ wheezed Matilda. 
‘ ’Old with it on the drawing-room floor.’ 

“ ‘But if she arsts questions?’ 

“ ‘She won’t wait to have them answered. It 
won’t be difficult, Martha. I wouldn’t put you into 
a position of difficulty, not if I could ’elp it. You 
just got to ’old with ’er quietly and she’ll do the rest.’ 

“ ‘Mother,’ said Prue, who was still too overawed 
by Matilda Good to address her directly. ‘Mother, 
what is this here vote?’ 

“ ‘Vote for Parliament, my dear,’ said Matilda 

“ ‘When shall we get it?’ asked my mother. 

“ ‘You won’t get it,’ said Matilda Good. 



“ ‘But if we did, what should we have to do with 
it, like?’ 

“ ‘ Nothing ,’ said Matilda Good with bottomless 
contempt. ‘All the same it’s a great movement, 
Martha, and don’t you forget it. And Miss Bumpus 
she works night and day, Martha, gets ’it about 
by policemen, and once she was actually in prison 
a night, getting you and me the vote.’ 

“ ‘Well, it shows a kind nature,’ said my mother. 

“ ‘My ground-floor’s a gentleman. The worst 
of ’im is the books there are to dust, books and 
books. Not that ’e ever reads ’em much. . . . 
Very likely you’ll ’ear ’im soon playing his pianola. 
You can ’ear it down ’ere almost as if you were 
inside it. Mr. Plaice, ’e’s an Oxford gentleman and 
he works at a firm of publishers, Burrows and 
Graves, they’re called; a very ’igh-class firm I’m told 
—don’t go in for advertisements or anything vulgar. 
He’s got photographs of Greek and Latin statues 
and ruins round above his bookshelves and shields 
with College arms. Naked some of the statues are, 
but for all that none of them are anything but quite 
nice and genteel, quite genteel. You can see at once 
he’s a University gentleman. And photographs of 
Switzerland he’s got. He goes up mountains in 
Switzerland and speaks the language. He’s a 
smoker; sets with a pipe writing or reading evening 
after evening and marking things with his pencil. 
Manuscripts he reads and proofs. Pipes he has with 
a pipe for every day in the week, and a smoker’s 
outfit all made with bee-utiful stone, serpentine they 
call it, sort of bloodshot green it is; tobacco-jar 
and a pot for feathers to clean his pipes, little places 



for each day’s pipe, everything all of stone; it’s a 
regular monument. And when you’re dusting it— 
remember if you drop this here serpentine it breaks 
like earthenware. Most of the maids I’ve ’ad ’ave 
’ad a chip at that tobacco graveyard of ’is. And 

mind you-’ Matilda Good leant forward and 

held out her hand to arrest any wandering of my 
mother’s attention. e, E don’t ’old with Votes for 
Women! See?’ 

“ ‘One’s got to be careful,’ said my mother. 

“ ‘One has. He’s got one or two little whims, 
has Mr. Plaice, but if you mind about them he 
don’t give you much trouble. One of ’is whims is 
to pretend to ’ave a bath every morning. Every 
morning he ’as a shallow tin bath put out in his 
room and a can of cold water and a sponge, and 
every morning he pretends to splash about in it 
something fearful and makes a noise like a grampus 
singing a hymn—calls it ’is Tub, he does; though 
it’s a lot more like a canary’s saucer. Says he must 
have it as cold as possible even if there’s ice on it. 

“Matilda Good performed a sort of landslide over 
the arm of her chair, her head nodded, and the 
whisper became more confidential. ‘He doesn’t,’ 
wheezed Matilda Good. 

“ ‘You mean he doesn’t get into the bath?’ 

“ ‘Not-tit,’ said Matilda Good. ‘You can see 
w r hen he’s really been in by his wet footmarks on 
the floor. Not ’arf the time does he have that bath. 
Per’aps ’e used to have it when he was a young 
man at College. I wonder. But it’s always got 
to be put out and the can always got to be lugged 



up and poured out and poured away again, and 
nobody’s ever to ask if he’d like the chill taken off. 
Not the sort of thing you ask a University gentle¬ 
man. No. All the same,’ said Matilda Good, ‘all 
the same I’ve caught ’im pouring his hand and 
shaving water into that water-splash in the winter, 
after he’d been going dirty for a week. But have 
a can of warm? Have the chill taken off his water? 
Not Tim! It’s curious, ain’t it? But that’s one 
of his whims. 

“ ‘I sometimes think,’ said Matilda Good still 
more extravagantly confidential, ‘that perhaps he 
climbs all those mountains in Switzerland same way 
as he takes his bath. . . .’ 

“She rolled back large portions of her person into 
a less symmetrical attitude. ‘This Mr. Plaice you 
must know,’ she said, ‘has a voice between a clergy¬ 
man’s and a schoolmaster’s, sort of hard and su¬ 
perior, and when you say anything to him he’s apt 
to make a noise, “Arrr . . . Arrr . . . Arrr,” a sort 
of slow neighing it is, as though he doesn’t think 
much of you but doesn’t want to blame you for 
that and anyhow can’t attend to you properly. 
You mustn’t let it annoy you. It’s the way he’s 
been brought up. And he has a habit of using long 
condescending sort of words to you. And calling 
you insulting names. He’ll think nothing of calling 
you “My worthy Abigail,” or “Come in, my rosy- 
fingered Aurora,” when you knock in the morning. 
Just as though a girl could keep ’er ’ands pink and 
clean with all these fires to light! He’ll ask of 
me ‘How’s the Good Matilda? How’s honest Ma¬ 
tilda Good to-day?”—sort of fiddling about with 



your name. Of course he don’t mean to be rude; 
it’s just his idea of being pleasant and humorous, 
and making you feel you’re being made fun of in 
a gentle sort of way instead of being terrible like 
he might be, and—seeing he’s good pay and very 
little trouble, Martha—it’s no good getting offended 
with him. All the same I can’t help thinking at 
times of how he’d get on if I answered ’im back, 
and which of us two would be left alive if we had 
a fair match of it, making fun of one another. The 
things—the things I could say! But that,’ said 
Matilda Good, breaking into an ingratiating smile 
of extraordinary extent and rolling one eye at me 
—‘is just a dream. It isn’t the sort of dream to 
indulge in in this ’ouse. I’ve rehearsed it a bit, I 
admit. Says ’e—but never mind what ’e says or 
what I says back to him. . . . Ugh! Ugh! . . . 
He’s good pay and regular, my dear; he ain’t likely 
to lose his job and he ain’t likely ever to get another, 
and in this Vale anyhow we got to put up with ’is 
whims. And-’ 

“Matilda Good spoke as one who confesses to 
a weakness. ‘His pianola cheers me up at times. 
I will say that for ’im. It’s almost the only noise 
one hears from him. Except when he takes off his 

“ ‘Well, up above my drawing-room at present 
is my second floor front, the Reverend Moggeridge 
and his good lady. They been here five months 
now and they seem like taking root.’ 

“ ‘Not a clergyman?’ said my mother respectfully. 

“ ‘A very poor clergyman,’ said Matilda, ‘but a 
clergyman. So much to our credit, Martha. Oh! 



but they’re poor old things! Poor old things! Been 
curate or something all his life in some out-of-the- 
world place. And lost his job. Somebody had the 
heart to turn ’em out. Or something happened. I 
wonder. ’E’s a funny old man. . . . 

“ ‘He dodders off nearly every Saturday on supply, 
they call it, to take services somewhere over the 
Sunday, and like as not he comes back with his cold 
worse than ever, sniffing and sniffing. It’s cruel 
how they treat these poor old parsons on supply, 
fetch ’em from the station in open traps they do, 
in the worst of weather, and often the rectory tee¬ 
total without a drop of anything for a cold. Chris¬ 
tianity! I suppose it’s got to be. . . . The two of 
them just potter about upstairs and make shift to 
get their meals, such as they are, over the bedroom 
fire. She even does a bit of her own washing. Drag¬ 
ging about. Poor old things! Old and forgotten 
and left about. But they’re very little trouble and 
there it is. And as I say—anyhow—he’s a clergy¬ 
man. And in the other room at the back there’s 
a German lady who teaches—well, anything she can 
persuade anyone to be taught. She hasn’t been 
here more than a month, and I don’t know whether 
I like her or not, but she seems straight enough 
and she keeps herself pretty much to herself and 
when one has a room to let one can’t always pick 
and choose. 

“ ‘And that’s the lot, my dear. To-morrow we’ll 
have to begin. You’ll go up presently and settle 
into your two rooms at the top. There’s a little 
one for Mortimer and a rather bigger one for you 
and Prue. There’s pegs and curtains for your 



things. I’m next door to you. I’ll give you my 
little old alarum clock and show you all about it and 
to-morrow at seven sharp down we come, you and 
me and Prue. My Lord, I suppose, has the privilege 
of his sex and doesn’t come down until half-past! 
Oh! I’m a suffragette, Martha,—same as Miss 
Bumpus. First thing is this fire, and unless we 
rake the ashes well forward the boiler won’t heat. 
Then there’s fires and boots, dust the front rooms 
and breakfasts: Mr. Plaice at eight sharp and mind 
it is, and Miss Bumpus at eight-thirty, and get away 
with Mr. Plaice if you can first because of the short¬ 
ness of tablespoons. Five I got altogether and be¬ 
fore I lost my last third floor back I ’ad seven. ’E 
w T as a nice lot; ’e was. The old people get their 
own breakfast when they want it, and Frau Buch- 
holz has a tray, just bread and butter and tea, 
whenever we can manage it after the drawing-room’s 
been seen to. That’s the programme, Martha.’ 

“ ‘I’ll do my best, ’Tilda,’ said my mother. ‘As 
you know.’ 

“ ‘Hullo!’ said Matilda indicating the ceiling, ‘the 
concert’s going to begin. That bump’s him letting 
down the pianola pedals.’ 

“And then suddenly through the ceiling into our 
subterranean tea-party came a rush of Clavier notes 
—I can’t describe it. 

“One of the few really good things of that age 
was the music. Mankind perfected some things 
very early; I suppose precious-stone work and gold 
work have never got very much beyond the levels 
it reached under the Seventeenth Dynasty in Egypt, 
ages ago, and marble statuary came to a climax at 



Athens before the conquests of Alexander. I doubt 
if there has ever come very much sweeter music into 
the world than the tuneful stuff we had away back 
there in the Age of Confusion. This music Air. 
Plaice was giving us was some bits of Schumann’s 
Carnaval music; we hear it still played on the 
Clavier; and it was almost the first good music I 
ever heard. There had been brass bands on Cliff- 
stone promenade, of course, but they simply made 
a glad row. I don’t know if you understand what 
a pianola was. It was an instrument for playing 
the Clavier with hammers directed by means of 
perforated rolls, for the use of those who lacked 
the intelligence and dexterity to read music and 
play the Clavier with their hands. Because every¬ 
one was frightfully unhandy in those days. It 
thumped a little and struck undiscriminating chords, 
but Mr. Plaice managed it fairly well and the result 

came, filtered through the ceiling- As we used 

to say in those days, it might have been worse. 

“At the thoughts of that music I recall—and 
whenever I hear Schumann as long as I live I shall 
recall—the picture of that underground room, the 
little fire-place with the kettle on a hob, the kettle- 
holder and the toasting fork beside the fire-place 
jamb, the steel fender, the ashes, the small blotched 
looking-glass over the mantel, the little china figures 
of dogs in front of the glass, the gaslight in a frosted 
glass globe hanging from the ceiling and lighting 
the tea-things on the table. (Yes, the house was 
lit by coal-gas; electric light was only just coming 
in. . . . My dear Firefly! can I possibly stop my 


story to tell you what coal-gas was? A good girl 
would have learnt that long ago.) 

“There sat Matilda Good reduced to a sort of 
imbecile ecstasy by these butterflies of melody. She 
nodded her cap, she rolled her head and smiled; 
she made appreciative rhythmic gestures with her 
hands; one eye would meet you in a joyous search 
for sympathy while the other contemplated the 
dingy wall-paper beyond. I too was deeply stirred. 
But my mother and sister Prue sat in their black 
with an expression of forced devotion, looking very 
refined and correct, exactly as they had sat and 
listened to my father’s funeral service five days 

“ ‘Sputiful/ whispered my mother, like making 
a response in church, when the first piece came to 
an end. . . . 

“I went to sleep that night in my little attic with 
fragments of Schumann, Bach and Beethoven chas¬ 
ing elusively about my brain. I perceived that a 
new phase of life had come to me. . . . 

“Jewels,” said Sarnac. “Some sculpture, music 
—just a few lovely beginnings there were already 
of w r hat man could do with life. Such things I see 
now were the seeds of the new world of promise 
already there in the dark matrix of the old.” 

§ 6 

“Next morning revealed a new Mathilda Good, 
active and urgent, in a loose and rather unclean 
mauve cotton wrapper and her head wrapped up 
in a sort of turban of figured silk. This costume 
she wore most of the day except that she did her 



hair and put on a cotton lace cap in the afternoon. 
(The black dress and the real lace cap and the 
brooch, I was to learn, were for Sundays and for 
week-day evenings of distinction.) My mother and 
Prue were arrayed in rough aprons which Matilda 
had very thoughtfully bought for them. There was 
a great bustle in the basement of the house, and 
Prue a little before eight went up with Matilda to 
learn how to set out breakfast for Mr. Plaice. I 
made his acquaintance later in the day when I took 
up the late edition of the Evening Standard to him. 
I found him a stooping, tall gentleman with a cadav¬ 
erous face that was mostly profile, and he made 
great play with my Christian name. 

“ ‘Mortimer,’ he said and neighed his neigh. ‘Well 
—it might have been Norfolk-Howard.’ 

“There was an obscure allusion in that: for 
once upon a time, ran the popular legend, a certain 
Mr. Bugg seeking a less entomological name had 
changed his to Norfolk-Howard, which was in those 
days a very aristocratic one. . . . Whereupon vul¬ 
gar people had equalised matters by calling the 
offensive bed-bugs that abounded in London, ‘Nor- 

“Before many weeks were past it became evident 
that Matilda Good had made an excellent bargain 
in her annexation of our family. She had secured 
my mother’s services for nothing, and it was mani¬ 
fest that my mother was a born lodging-house 
woman. She behaved like a partner in the concern, 
and the only money Matilda ever gave her was to 
pay her expenses upon some specific errand or to 
buy some specific thing. Prue, however, with unex- 



pected firmness, insisted upon wages, and enforced 
her claim by going out and nearly getting employ¬ 
ment at a dressmaker’s. In a little while Matilda 
became to the lodgers an unseen power for right¬ 
eousness in the basement and all the staircase work 
was left to my mother and Prue. Often Matilda 
did not go up above the ground level once all day 
until, as she said, she ‘toddled up to bed.’ 

“Matilda made some ingenuous attempts to utilise 
me also in the service of the household: I was ex¬ 
horted to carry up scuttles of coal, clean boots and 
knives and make myself useful generally. She even 
put it to me one day whether I wouldn’t like a nice 
suit with buttons—in those days they still used 
to put small serving boys in tight suits of green 
or brown cloth, with rows of gilt buttons as close 
together as possible over their little chests and 
stomachs. But the very thought of it sent my mind 
to Chessing Hanger, where I had conceived an 
intense hatred and dread of ‘service’ and ‘livery,’ 
and determined me to find some other employment 
before Matilda Good’s large and insidious will en¬ 
veloped and overcame me. And, oddly enough, a 
talk I had with Miss Beatrice Bumpus helped me 
greatly in my determination. 

“Miss Bumpus was a slender young woman of 
about five and twenty, I suppose. She had short 
brown hair, brushed back rather prettily from a 
broad forehead, and she had freckles on her nose 
and quick red-brown eyes. She generally wore a 
plaid tweed costume rather short in the skirt and 
with a coat cut like a man’s; she wore green stock¬ 
ings and brown shoes—I had never seen green stock- 



ings before—and she would stand on her hearthrug 
in exactly the attitude Mr. Plaice adopted on his 
hearthrug downstairs. Or she would be sitting at 
a writing-desk against the window, smoking ciga¬ 
rettes. She asked me what sort of man I intended 
to be, and I said with the sort of modesty I had 
been taught to assume as becoming my station, that 
I hadn’t thought yet. 

“To which Miss Bumpus answered, ‘Liar.’ 

“That was the sort of remark that either kills or 
cures. I said, ‘Well, Miss, I want to get educated 
and I don’t know how to do it. And I don’t know 
what I ought to do.’ 

“Miss Bumpus held me with a gesture while 
she showed how nicely she could send out smoke 
through her nose. Then she said, ‘Avoid Blind 
Alley Occupations.’ 

“ ‘Yes, Miss.’ 

“ ‘But you don’t know what Blind Alley Occupa¬ 
tions are?’ 

“ ‘No, Miss.’ 

“ ‘Occupations that earn a boy wages and lead 
nowhere. One of the endless pitfalls of this silly 
man-made pseudo-civilisation. Never do anything 
that doesn’t lead somewhere. Aim high. I must 
think your case out, Mr. Harry Mortimer. I might 
be able to help you. . . .’ 

“This was the opening of quite a number of con¬ 
versations between myself and Miss Bumpus. She 
was a very stimulating influence in my adolescence. 
She pointed out that although it was now late in 
the year, there were many evening classes of various 
sorts that I might attend with profit. She told me 



of all sorts of prominent and successful people who 
had begun their careers from beginnings as humble 
and hopeless as mine. She said I was 'unhampered’ 
by my sex. She asked me if I was interested in the 
suffrage movement, and gave me tickets for two 
meetings at which I heard her speak, and she spoke, 
I thought, very well. She answered some inter¬ 
rupters with extreme effectiveness, and I cheered 
myself hoarse for her. Something about her light 
and gallant attitude to life reminded me of Fanny. 
I said so one day, and found myself, before I knew 
it, telling her reluctantly and shamefully the story 
of our family disgrace. Miss Bumpus was much 

“ 'She wasn’t like your sister Prue?’ 

" 'No, Miss.’ 

" 'Prettier?’ 

" 'A lot prettier. Of course—you could hardly 
call Prue pretty, Miss.’ 

" 'I hope she’s got on all right,’ said Miss Bumpus. 
'I don’t blame her a bit. But I hope she got the 
best of it.’ 

" 'I’d give anything, Miss, to hear Fanny was 
all right. ... I did care for Fanny, Miss. . . . 
I’d give anything almost to see Fanny again. . . . 
You won’t tell my mother, Miss, I told you anything 
about Fanny? It kind of slipped out like.’ 

“ 'Mortimer,’ said Miss Bumpus, 'you’re a sticker. 
I wish I had a little brother like you. There! I 
won’t breathe a word.’ 

"I felt we had sealed a glorious friendship. I 
adopted Votes for Women as the first plank of my 
political platform. (No, Firefly, I won’t explain. I 



won’t explain anything. You must guess what a 
political platform was and what its planks were.) 
I followed up her indications and found out about 
classes in the district where I could learn geology and 
chemistry and how to speak French and German. 
Very timidly I mooted the subject of my further 
education in the basement living-room.” 

§ 7 

Sarnac looked round at the fire-lit faces of his 

“I know how topsy-turvy this story must seem 
to you, but it is a fact that before I was fourteen 
I had to plead for education against the ideas and 
wishes of my own family. And the whole house¬ 
hold from top to bottom was brought into the dis¬ 
cussion by Matilda or my mother. Except for Miss 
Bumpus and Frau Buchholz, everyone was against 
the idea. 

“ ‘Education,’ said Matilda, shaking her head 
slowly from side to side and smiling deprecatingly. 
‘Education! That’s all very well for those who 
have nothing better to do, but you want to get on in 
the world. You’ve got to be earning, young man.’ 

“ ‘But if I have education I’ll be able to earn 

“Matilda screwed up her mouth in a portentous 
manner and pointed to the ceiling to indicate Mr. 
Plaice. ‘That’s what comes of education, young 
man. A room frowsty with books and just enough 
salary not to be able to do a blessed thing you want 
to do. And giving yourself Airs. Business is what 
you want, young man, not education.’ 


“ ‘And who’s to pay for all these classes?’ said 
my mother. ‘That’s what I want to know.’ 

“ ‘That’s what we all want to know,’ said Matilda 

“ ‘If I can’t get education-’ I said, and left 

the desperate sentence unfinished. I am afraid I 
was near weeping. To learn nothing beyond my 
present ignorance seemed to me then like a sentence 
of imprisonment for life. It wasn’t I who suffered 
that alone. Thousands of poor youngsters of four¬ 
teen or fifteen in those days knew enough to see 
clearly that the doors of practical illiteracy were 
closing in upon them, and yet did not know enough 
to find a way of escape from this mental extinction. 

“‘Look here!’ I said, ‘if I can get some sort of 
job during the day, may I pay for classes in the 

“ ‘If you can earn enough,’ said Matilda. ‘It’s 
no worse I suppose than going to these new cinema 
shows or buying sweets for girls.’ 

“‘You’ve got to pay in for your room here and 
your keep, Morty, first,’ said my mother. ‘It isn’t 
fair on Miss Good if you don’t.’ 

“ ‘I know,’ I said, with my heart sinking. ‘I’ll 
pay in for my board and lodging. Some’ow. I don’t 
want to be dependent.’ 

“ ‘What good you think it will do you,’ said 
Matilda Good, ‘I don’t know. You’ll pick up a 
certain amount of learning perhaps, get a certificate 
or something and ideas above your station. You’ll 
give all the energy you might use in shoving your 
way up in some useful employment. You’ll get 
round-shouldered and near-sighted. And just to 



grow up a discontented misfit. Well—have it your 
own way if you must. If you earn the money your¬ 
self it’s yours to spend.’ 

“Mr. Plaice was no more encouraging. ‘Well, my 
noble Mortimer/ he said, ‘they tell me Arr that you 
aspire to university honours.’ 

“ ‘I want to learn a little more than I know, Sir.’ 

“ ‘And join the ranks of the half-educated prole¬ 

“It sounded bad. ‘I hope not, Sir,’ I said. 

“ ‘And what classes do you propose to attend, 

“ ‘Whatever there are.’ 

“ ‘No plan? No aim?’ 

“ ‘I thought they’d know/ 

“‘Whatever they give you—eh? A promiscuous 
appetite. And while you—while you Arr indulge 
in this mixed feast of learning, this futile rivalry 
with the children of the leisured classes, somebody 
I suppose will have to keep you. Don’t you think 
it’s a bit hard on that kind mother of yours who 
toils day and night for you, that you shouldn’t work 
and do your bit, eh? One of the things, Mortimer, 
we used to learn in our much-maligned public 
schools, was something we called playing cricket. 
Well, I ask you, is this—this disinclination to do a 
bit of the earning, Arr, is it playing cricket? I could 
expect such behaviour from an ’Arry, you know, 
but not from a Mortimer. Noblesse oblige. You 
think it over, my boy. There’s such a thing as learn¬ 
ing, but there’s such a thing as Duty. Many of us 
have to be content with lives of unassuming labour. 


Many of us. Men who under happier circumstances 
might have done great things. . . .’ 

“The Moggeridges were gently persuasive in the 
same strain. My mother had put her case to them 
also. Usually I was indisposed to linger in the 
Moggeridge atmosphere; they had old-fashioned 
ideas about draughts, and there was a peculiar aged 
flavour about them; they were, to be plain, a very 
dirty old couple indeed. With declining strength 
they had relaxed by imperceptible degrees from the 
not very exacting standards of their youth. I used 
to cut into their room and out of it again as quickly 
as I could. 

“But half a century of the clerical life among 
yielding country folk had given these bent, decaying, 
pitiful creatures a wonderful way with their social 
inferiors. ‘Morning, Sir and Mam,’ I said, and put 
down the coals I had brought and took up the empty 
scuttle-lining I had replaced. 

“Mrs. Moggeridge advanced shakily so as to inter¬ 
cept my retreat. She had silvery hair, a wrinkled 
face and screwed-up red-rimmed eyes; she was short¬ 
sighted and came peering up very close to me when¬ 
ever she spoke to me, breathing in my face. She 
held out a quivering hand to arrest me; she spoke 
with a quavering voice. ‘And how’s Master Morty 
this morning?’ she said, with kindly condescending 

“ ‘Very well thank you, Mam,’ I said. 

“ ‘I’ve been hearing rather a sad account of you, 
Morty, rather a sad account.’ 

“ ‘Sorry, Mum,’ I said, and wished I had the 


courage to tell her that my life was no business of 

“ ‘They say you’re discontented, Morty. They 
say you complain of God’s Mercies.’ 

“Mr. Moggeridge had been sitting in the arm¬ 
chair by the fire-place. He was in his slippers and 
shirt-sleeves and he had been reading a newspaper. 
Now he looked at me over his silver-rimmed spec¬ 
tacles and spoke in a rich succulent voice. 

“ ‘I’m sorry you should be giving trouble to that 
dear mother of yours,’ he said. ‘Very sorry. She’s 
a devoted saintly woman. 

“ ‘Yessir,’ I said. 

“ ‘Very few boys nowadays have the privilege of 
such an upbringing as yours. Some day you may 
understand what you owe her.’ 

(“ ‘I begin to,’ ” interjected Sarnac.) 

“ ‘It seems you want to launch out upon some 
extravagant plan of classes instead of settling dowm 
quietly in your proper sphere. Is that so?’ 

“ ‘I don’t feel I know enough yet, Sir,’ I said. ‘I 
feel I’d like to learn more.’ 

“ ‘Knowledge isn’t always happiness, Morty,’ said 
Mrs. Moggeridge close to me—much too close to me. 

“ ‘And what may these classes be that are tempt¬ 
ing you to forget the honour you owe your dear 
good mother?’ said Mr. Moggeridge. 

“ ‘I don’t know yet, Sir. They say there’s classes 
in geology and French and things like that.’ 

“Old Mr. Moggeridge waved his hand in front 
of himself with an expression of face as though it 
was I who emitted an evil odour. ‘Geology!’ he 
said. ‘French—the language of Voltaire. Let me 



tell you one thing plainly, my boy, your mother is 
quite right in objecting to these classes. Geology 
—geology is—All Wrong. It has done more harm 
in the last fifty years than any other single influence 
whatever. It undermines faith. It sows doubt. I 
do not speak ignorantly, Mortimer. I have seen 
lives wrecked and destroyed and souls lost by this 
same geology. I am an old learned man, and I 
have examined the work of many of these so-called 
geologists—Huxley, Darwin and the like; I have 
examined it very, very carefully and very, very toler¬ 
antly, and I tell you they are all, all of them, hope¬ 
lessly mistaken men. . . . And what good will such 
knowledge do you? Will it make you happier? 
Will it make you better? No, my lad. But I 
know of something that will. Something older than 
geology. Older and better. Sarah dear, give me that 
book there, please. Yes’—reverentially —‘the Book.’ 

“His wife handed him a black-bound Bible, with 
its cover protected against rough usage by a metal 
edge. ‘Now, my boy,’ he said, ‘let me give you this 
—this old familiar book, with an old man’s blessing. 
In that is all the knowledge worth having, all the 
knowledge you will ever need. You will always find 
something fresh in it and always something beau¬ 
tiful.’ He held it out to me. 

“Accepting it seemed the shortest way out of the 
room, so I took it. ‘Thank you, Sir,’ I said. 

“ ‘Promise me you will read it.’ 

“ ‘Oh yes, Sir.’ 

“I turned to go. But giving was in the air. 

“ ‘Now, Mortimer,’ said Mrs. Moggeridge, ‘do 
please promise me to seek strength where strength 



is to be found and try to be a better son to that dear 
struggling woman.’ And as she spoke she proffered 
for my acceptance an extremely hard, small, yellow 

“ ‘Thank you, Mam,’ I said, made shift to stow 
her gift in my pocket, and with the Bible in one 
hand and the empty coal-scuttle-lining in the other, 

“I returned wrathfully to the basement and 
deposited my presents on the window-sill. Some 
impulse made me open the Bible, and inside the 
cover I found, imperfectly erased, the shadowy out¬ 
lines of these words, printed in violet ink: ‘Not 
to be Removed from the Waiting-Room.’ I puzzled 
over the significance of this for some time.” 

“And what did it signify?’ asked Firefly. 

“I do not know to this day,” said Sarnac. “But 
apparently the reverend gentleman had acquired 
that Book at a railway-station during one of his 
journeys as a Sunday supply.” 

“You mean-?” said Firefly. 

“No more than I say. He was in many ways 
a peculiar old gentleman, and his piety was, I fancy, 
an essentially superficial exudation. He was—I will 
not say ‘dishonest,’ but ‘spasmodically acquisitive.’ 
And like many old people in those days he preferred 
his refreshment to be stimulating rather than nutri¬ 
tious, and so he may have blurred his ethical per¬ 
ceptions. An odd thing about him—Matilda Good 
was the first to point it out—was that he rarely took 
an umbrella away with him when he went on supply 
and almost always he came back with one—and 
once he came back with two. But he never kept 



his umbrellas; he would take them off for long walks 
and return without them, looking all the brighter 
for it. I remember one day I was in the room when 
he returned from such an expedition, there had been 
a shower and his coat was wet. Mrs. Moggeridge 
made him change it and lamented that he had lost 
his umbrella again. 

" 'Not lost,’ I heard the old man say in a voice of 
infinite gentleness. 'Not lost, dear. Not lost; but 
gone before. . . . Gone before the rain came. . . . 
The Lord gave. . . . Lord hath taken ’way.’ 

"For a time he was silent, coat in hand. He stood 
with his shirt-sleeve resting on the mantel-shelf, his 
foot upon the fender, and his venerable hairy face 
gazing down into the fire. He seemed to be thinking 
deep, sad things. Then he remarked in a thoughtful, 
less obituary tone: 'Ten’n-sixpence. A jolly goo’ 

§ 8 

"Frau Buchholz was a poor, lean, distressful 
woman of five and forty or more, with a table lit¬ 
tered with the documents of some obscure litigation. 
She did not altogether discourage my ambitions, but 
she laid great stress on the hopelessness of attempt¬ 
ing Kultur without a knowledge of German, and I 
am inclined to think that her attitude was deter¬ 
mined mainly by a vague and desperate hope that 
I might be induced to take lessons in German from 

"Brother Ernest was entirely against my ambi¬ 
tion. He was shy and vocally inexpressive, and he 
took me to the Victoria Music Hall and spent a long 



evening avoiding the subject. It was only as we 
drew within five minutes of home that he spoke of it. 

“ ‘What’s all this about your not being satisfied 
with your education, ’Arry?’ he asked. ‘I thought 
you’d had a pretty decent bit of schooling.’ 

“ ‘I don’t feel I know anything,’ I said. ‘I don’t 
know history or geography or anything. I don’t 
even know my own grammar.’ 

“ ‘You know enough,’ said Ernest. ‘You know 
enough to get a job. Knowing more wmuld only 
make you stuck-up. We don’t want any more stuek- 
ups in the family, God knows.’ 

“I knew he referred to Fanny, but of course 
neither of us mentioned her shameful name. 

“ ‘Anyhow, I suppose I’ll have to chuck it,’ I said 

“ ‘That’s about it, ’Arry. I know you’re a sensible 
chap—at bottom. You got to be what you got to be.’ 

“The only encouragement I got to resist mental 
extinction was from Miss Beatrice Bumpus, and 
after a time I found even that source of consolation 
was being cut off from me. For my mother began 
to develop the most gross and improbable suspicions 
about Miss Bumpus. You see I stayed sometimes 
as long as ten or even twelve minutes in the drawing¬ 
room, and it was difficult for so good a woman as 
my mother, trained in the most elaborate precau¬ 
tions of separation between male and female, to 
understand that two young people of opposite sex 
could have any liking for each other’s company 
unless some sort of gross familiarity was involved. 
The good of those days, living as they did in a state 
of inflamed restraint, had very exaggerated ideas of 



the appetites, capacities and uncontrollable duplicity 
of normal human beings. And so my mother began 
to manoeuvre in the most elaborate way to replace 
me by Prue as a messenger to Miss Bumpus. And 
when I was actually being talked to—and even talk¬ 
ing—in the drawing-room I had an increasing sense 
of that poor misguided woman hovering upon the 
landing outside, listening in a mood of anxious curi¬ 
osity and ripening for a sudden inrush, a disgraceful 
exposure, wild denunciation of Miss Bumpus, and 
the rescue of the vestiges of my damaged moral 
nature. I might never have realised what was going 
on if it had not been for my mother’s direct ques¬ 
tionings and warnings. Her conception of a proper 
upbringing for the young on these matters was 
a carefully preserved ignorance hedged about by 
shames and foul terrors. So she was at once ex¬ 
tremely urgent and extraordinarily vague with me. 
What was I up to—staying so long with that 
woman? I wasn’t to listen to anything she told me. 
I was to be precious careful what I got up to up 
there. I might find myself in more trouble than I 
thought. There were women in this world of a 
shamelessness it made one blush to think of. She’d 
always done her best to keep me from wickedness 
and nastiness.” 

“But she was mad!” said Willow. 

“All the countless lunatic asylums of those days 
wouldn’t have held a tithe of the English people 
who were as mad in that way as she was.” 

“But the whole world was mad?” said Sunray. 
“All those people, except perhaps Miss Bumpus, 
talked about your education like insane people! Did 



none of them understand the supreme wickedness 
of hindering the growth of a human mind?” 

“It was a world of suppression and evasion. You 
cannot understand anything about it unless you 
understand that.” 

“But the whole world!” said Radiant. 

“Most of it. It was still a fear-haunted world. 
‘Submit/ said the ancient dread, ‘do nothing—lest 
you offend. And from your children— hide.’ What 
I am telling you about the upbringing of Harry 
Mortimer Smith was generally true of the upbring¬ 
ing of the enormous majority of the inhabitants of 
the earth. It was not merely that their minds were 
starved and poisoned. Their minds were stamped 
upon and mutilated. That world was so pitiless and 
confused, so dirty and diseased, because it was cowed 
and dared not learn of remedies. In Europe in those 
days we used to be told the most extraordinary 
stories of the wickedness and cruelty of the Chinese, 
and one favourite tale was that little children were 
made to grow up inside great porcelain jars in order 
to distort their bodies to grotesque shapes so that 
they could be shown at fairs or sold to rich men. 
The Chinese certainly distorted the feet of young 
women for some obscure purpose, and this may have 
been the origin of this horrible legend. But our 
children in England were mentally distorted in 
exactly the same fashion except that for porcelain 
jars we used mental tin-cans and dustbins. . . . 
My dears! when I talk of this I cease to be Sarnac! 
All the rage and misery of crippled and thwarted 
Harry Mortimer Smith comes back to me.” 


“Did you get to those classes of yours?” asked 
Sunray. “I hope you did.” 

“Not for a year or two—though Miss Bumpus 
did what she could for me. She lent me a lot of 
books—in spite of much ignorant censorship on the 
part of my mother—and I read voraciously. But, I 
don’t know if you will understand it, my relations 
with Miss Bumpus were slowly poisoned by the 
interpretations my mother was putting upon them. 
I think you will see how easy it was for a boy in 
my position to fall in love, fall into a deep emotional 
worship of so bright and friendly a young woman. 
Most of us young men nowadays begin by adoring 
a woman older than ourselves. Adoring is the word 
rather than loving. It’s not a mate we need at first 
but the helpful, kindly goddess who stoops to us. 
And of course I loved her. But I thought much 
more of serving her or dying for her than of embrac¬ 
ing her. When I was away from her my imagination 
might go so far as to dream of kissing her hands. 

“And then came my mother with this hideous 
obsession of hers, jealous for something she called 
my purity, treating this white passion of gratitude 
and humility as though it was the power that drags 
a blow-fly to some heap of offal. A deepening shame 
and ungraciousness came into my relations with 
Miss Bumpus. I became red-eared and tongue-tied 
in her presence. Possibilities I might never have 
thought of but for my mother’s suggestions grew 
disgustingly vivid in my mind. I dreamt about her 
grotesquely. When presently I found employment 
for my days my chances of seeing her became infre¬ 
quent. She receded as a personality and friend, 


and quite against my will became a symbol of 

“Among the people who called to see her a man 
of three or four and thirty became frequent. My 
spirit flamed into an intense and impotent jealousy 
on account of this man. He would take tea with 
her and stay for two hours or more. My mother 
took care to mention his visits in my hearing at 
every opportunity. She called him Miss Bumpus’ 
‘fancy man/ or alluded to him archly: ‘A certain 
person called again to-day, Prue. When good-lookin’ 
young men are shown in at the door, votes flies out 
of the winder.’ I tried to seem indifferent but my 
ears and cheeks got red and hot. My jealousy w T as 
edged with hate. I avoided seeing Miss Bumpus 
for weeks together. I sought furiously for some girl, 
any girl, who would serve to oust her image from 
my imagination.” 

Sarnac stopped abruptly and remained for a time 
staring intently into the fire. His expression was 
one of amused regret. “How little and childish 
it seems now!” he said; “and how bitter—oh! how 
bitter it was at the time!” 

“Poor little errand-boy!” said Sunray, stroking 
his hair. “Poor little errand-boy in love.” 

“What an uncomfortable distressful world it must 
have been for all young things!” said Willow. 

“Uncomfortable and pitiless,” said Sarnac. 

§ 9 

“My first employment in London was as an 
errand-boy—‘junior porter’ was the exact phrase— 
to a draper’s shop near Victoria Station: I packed 



parcels and carried them to their destinations; my 
next job was to be boy in general to a chemist named 
Humberg in a shop beyond Lupus Street. A chem¬ 
ist then was a very different creature from the kind 
of man or woman we call a chemist to-day; he was 
much more like the Apothecary we find in Shake¬ 
speare’s plays and such-like old literature; he was 
a dealer in drugs, poisons, medicines, a few spices, 
colouring matters and such-like odd commodities. 
I washed endless bottles, delivered drugs and medi¬ 
cines, cleared up a sort of backyard, and did any¬ 
thing else that there was to be done within the 
measure of my capacity. 

“Of all the queer shops one found in that old- 
world London, the chemists’ shops were, I think, the 
queerest. They had come almost unchanged out of 
the Middle Ages, as we used to call them, when 
Western Europe, superstitious, dirty, diseased and 
degenerate, thrashed by the Arabs and Mongols and 
Turks, afraid to sail the ocean or fight out of armour, 
cowered behind the walls of its towns and castles, 
stole, poisoned, assassinated and tortured, and pre¬ 
tended to be the Roman Empire still in being. 
Western Europe in those days was ashamed of its 
natural varieties of speech and talked bad Latin; 
it dared not look a fact in the face but nosed for 
knowledge among riddles and unreadable parch¬ 
ments; it burnt men and women alive for laughing 
at the absurdities of its Faith, and it thought the 
stars of Heaven were no better than a greasy pack 
of cards by which fortunes were to be told. In 
those days it was that the tradition of the ’Pothecary 
was made; you know him as he figures in Romeo 



and Juliet; the time in which I lived this life was 
barely four centuries and a half from old Shake¬ 
speare. The ’Pothecary was in a conspiracy of 
pretentiousness with the almost equally ignorant 
doctors of his age, and the latter wrote and he ‘made 
up’ prescriptions in occult phrases and symbols. 
In our window there were great glass bottles of red- 
and yellow- and blue-tinted water, through which 
our gas-lamps within threw a mystical light on the 
street pavement.” 

“Was there a stuffed alligator?” asked Firefly. 

“No. We were just out of the age of stuffed 
alligators, but below these coloured bottles in the 
window we had stupendous china jars with gilt caps 
mystically inscribed—let me see! Let me think! 
One was Sem. Coriand. Another was Rad. Sarsap. 
Then—what was the fellow in the corner? Marant. 
Ar. And opposite him— C. Cincordif. And behind 
the counter to look the customer in the face were 
neat little drawers with golden and precious letters 
thereon; Pil. Rhubarb, and Pil. Antibil. and many 
more bottles, 01. Amyg. and Tinct. Iod., rows and 
rows of bottles, mystic, wonderful. I do not re¬ 
member ever seeing Mr. Humberg take anything, 
much less sell anything, from all this array of erudite 
bottles and drawers; his normal trade was done in 
the bright little packets of an altogether different 
character that were piled all over the counter, bright 
unblushing little packets that declared themselves 
to be Gummidge’s Fragrant and Digestive Tooth 
Paste, Hooper’s Corn Cure, Luxtone’s Lady’s Rem¬ 
edy, Tinker’s Pills for All Occasions, and the like. 
Such things were asked for openly and loudly by 



customers; they were our staple trade. But also 
there were many transactions conducted in under¬ 
tones which I never fully understood. I would be 
sent off to the yard on some specious pretext when¬ 
ever a customer was discovered to be of the sotto 
voce variety, and I can only suppose that Mr. Hum- 
berg was accustomed at times to go beyond the 
limits of his professional qualification and to deal 
out advice and instruction that were legally the 
privileges of the qualified medical man. You must 
remember that in those days many things that we 
teach plainly and simply to every one were tabooed 
and made to seem occult and mysterious and very, 
very shameful and dirty. 

“My first reaction to this chemist’s shop was a 
violent appetite for Latin. I succumbed to its sug¬ 
gestion that Latin was the key to all knowledge, 
and that indeed statements did not become knowl¬ 
edge until they had passed into the Latin tongue. 
For a few coppers I bought in a second-hand book¬ 
shop an old and worn Latin Principia written by 
a namesake Smith; I attacked it with great de¬ 
termination and found this redoubtable language 
far more understandable, reasonable and straight¬ 
forward than the elusive irritable French and the 
trampling coughing German I had hitherto at¬ 
tempted. This Latin was a dead language, a skele¬ 
ton language plainly articulated; it never moved 
about and got away from one as a living language 
did. In a little while I was able to recognize words 
I knew upon our bottles and drawers and in the 
epitaphs upon the monuments in Westminster 
Abbey, and soon I could even construe whole 



phrases. I dug out Latin books from the second¬ 
hand booksellers’ boxes, and some I could read and 
some I could not. There was a war history of that 
first Caesar, Julius Caesar, the adventurer who ex¬ 
tinguished the last reek of the decaying Roman 
republic, and there was a Latin New Testament; 
I got along fairly well with both. But there was 
a Latin poet, Lucretius, I could not construe; even 
with an English verse translation on the opposite 
page I could not construe him. But I read that 
English version with intense curiosity. It is an 
extraordinary thing to note, but that same Lucretius, 
an old Roman poet who lived and died two thousand 
years before my time, four thousand years from now, 
gave an account of the universe and of man’s be¬ 
ginnings far truer and more intelligible than the old 
Semitic legends I had been taught in my Sunday 

"One of the queerest aspects of those days was 
the mingling of ideas belonging to different ages and 
phases of human development due to the irregular¬ 
ity and casualness of such educational organisation 
as we had. In school and church alike, obstinate 
pedantry darkened the minds of men. Europeans 
in the twentieth Christian century mixed up the 
theology of the Pharaohs, the cosmogony of the 
priest-kings of Sumeria, with the politics of the 
seventeenth century and the ethics of the cricket- 
field and prize-ring, and that in a world which had 
got to aeroplanes and telephones. 

“My own case was typical of the limitations of 
the time. In that age of ceaseless novelty there 
was I, trying to get back by way of Latin to the half 



knowledge of the Ancients. Presently I began to 
struggle with Greek also, but I never got very far 
with that. I found a chance of going once a week 
on what was called early-closing night, after my 
day’s work was done, to some evening classes in 
chemistry. And this chemistry I discovered had 
hardly anything in common with the chemistry of 
a chemist’s shop. The story of matter and force 
that it told belonged to another and a newer age. 
I was fascinated by these wider revelations of the 
universe I lived in, I ceased to struggle with Greek 
and I no longer hunted the dingy book-boxes for 
Latin classics but for modern scientific works. 
Lucretius I found was hardly less out of date than 
Genesis. Among the books that taught me much 
were one called Physiography by a writer named 
Gregory, Clodd’s Story of Creation and Lankester’s 
Science from an Easy Chair. I do not know if they 
were exceptionally good books; they were the ones 
that happened to come to my hand and awaken my 
mind. But do you realise the amazing conditions 
under which men were living at that time, when 
a youngster had to go about as eager and furtive 
as a mouse seeking food, to get even such knowledge 
of the universe and himself as then existed? I still 
remember how I read first of the differences and 
resemblances between apes and men and specula¬ 
tions arising thencefrom about the nature of the 
sub-men who came before man. It was in the shed 
in the yard that I sat and read. Mr. Humberg 
was on the sofa in the parlour behind the shop 
sleeping off his midday meal with one ear a-cock 
for the shop-bell, and I, with one ear a-cock for the 



shop-bell and the other for any sounds of move¬ 
ment in the parlour, read for the first time of the 
forces that had made me what I was—when I ought 
to have been washing out bottles. 

“At one point in the centre of the display behind 
the counter in the shop was a row of particularly 
brave and important-looking glass jars wearing 
about their bellies the gold promises of Aqua Fortis, 
Amm. Hyd. and such-like names, and one day as I 
was sweeping the floor I observed Mr. Humberg 
scrutinising these. He held one up to the light and 
shook his head at its flocculent contents. ‘Harry,’ 
he said, ‘see this row of bottles?’ 

“ ‘Yessir.’ 

“ ‘Pour ’em all out and put in fresh water.’ 

“I stared, broom in hand, aghast at the waste. 
‘They won’t blow up if I mix ’em?’ I said. 

“‘Blow up!’ said Mr. Humberg. ‘It’s only stale 
water. There’s been nothing else in these bottles 
for a score of years. Stuff I want is behind the 
dispensary partition—and it’s different stuff now¬ 
adays. Wash ’em out—and then we’ll put in some 
water from the pump. We just have ’em for the 
look of ’em. The old women wouldn’t be happy if 
we hadn’t got ’em there.” 

Part II 

The Loves and Death of Harry 
Mortimer Smith 



§ 1 

“And now,” said Sarnac, “I can draw near to the 
essentials of life and tell you the sort of thing love 
was in that crowded, dingy, fear-ruled world of the 
London fogs and the amber London sunshine. It 
w r as a slender, wild-eyed, scared and daring emotion 
in a dark forest of cruelties and repressions. It 
soon grew old and crippled, bitter-spirited and black¬ 
hearted, but as it happened, death came early 
enough for me to die with a living love still in my 
heart. . . .” 

“To live again,” said Sunray very softly. 

“And love again,” said Sarnac, patting her knee. 
“Let me see-. . . .” 

He took a stake that had fallen from the fire and 
thrust it into the bright glow at the centre and 
watched it burst into a sierra of flames. 

“I think that the first person I was in love with 
was my sister Fanny. When I was a boy of eleven 
or twelve I was really in love with her. But some¬ 
how about that time I was also in love with an 
undraped plaster nymph who sat very bravely on 
a spouting dolphin in some public gardens near the 
middle of Cliffstone. She lifted her chin and smiled 
and waved one hand and she had the sweetest smile 




and the dearest little body imaginable. I loved her 
back particularly, and there was a point where you 
looked at her from behind and just caught the soft 
curve of her smiling cheek and her jolly little nose- 
tip and chin and the soft swell of her breast under 
her lifted arm. I would sneak round her furtively 
towards this particular view-point, having been too 
well soaked in shame about all such lovely things 
to look openly. But I never seemed to look my fill. 

“One day as I was worshipping her in this fashion, 
half-turned to her and half-turned to a bed of flowers 
and looking at her askance, I became aware of an 
oldish man with a large white face, seated on a gar¬ 
den seat and leaning forward and regarding me with 
an expression of oafish cunning as if he had found 
me out and knew my secret. He looked like the 
spirit of lewdness incarnate. Suddenly panic over¬ 
whelmed me and I made off—and never went near 
that garden again. Angels with flaming shames 
prevented me. Of a terror of again meeting that 
horrible old man. . . . 

“Then with my coming to London Miss Beatrice 
Bumpus took control of my imagination and was 
Venus and all the goddesses, and this increased 
rather than diminished after she had gone away. 
For she went away and, I gather, married the young 
man I hated; she went away and gave up her work 
for the Vote and was no doubt welcomed back by 
those Warwickshire Bumpuses (who hunted) with 
the slaughter of a fatted fox and every sort of 
rejoicing. But her jolly frank and boyish face was 
the heroine’s in a thousand dreams. I saved her 
life in adventures in all parts of the world and some- 



times she saved mine; we clung together over the 
edges of terrific precipices until I went to sleep, and 
when I was the conquering Muhammad after a 
battle, she stood out among the captive women and 
answered back when I said I would never love her, 
with two jets of cigarette smoke and the one word, 

“I met no girls of my own age at all while I was 
errand-boy to Mr. Humberg, my evening classes 
and my reading kept me away from the facile en¬ 
counters of the streets. Sometimes, however, when 
I could not fix my attention upon my books, I 
would slip off to Wilton Street and Victoria Street 
where there was a nocturnal promenade under the 
electric lamps. There schoolgirls and little drabs 
and errand-boys and soldiers prowled and accosted 
one another. But though I was attracted to some 
of the girlish figures that flitted by me I was also 
shy and fastidious. I was drawn by an overpower¬ 
ing desire for something intense and beautiful that 
vanished whenever I drew near to reality.” 

§ 2 

“Before a year was over there w T ere several changes 
in the Pimlico boarding-house. The poor old Mog- 
geridges caught influenza, a variable prevalent epi¬ 
demic of the time, and succumbed to inflammation 
of the lungs following the fever. They died within 
three days of each other, and my mother and Prue 
were the only mourners at their dingy little funeral. 
Frau Buchholz fades out of my story; I do not 
remember clearly when she left the house nor who 
succeeded her. Miss Beatrice Bumpus abandoned 



the cause of woman’s suffrage and departed, and the 
second floor was taken by an extremely intermittent 
couple who roused my mother’s worst suspicions and 
led to serious differences of opinion between her and 
Matilda Good. 

“You see these new-comers never settled in with 
any grave and sober luggage; they would come and 
stay for a day or so and then not reappear for a week 
or more, and they rarely arrived or departed to¬ 
gether. This roused my mother’s moral observation, 
and she began hinting that perhaps they were not 
properly married after all. She forbade Prue ever 
to go to the drawing-room floor, and this precipitated 
a conflict with Matilda. ‘What’s this about Prue 
and the drawing-room?’ Matilda asked. ‘You’re 
putting ideas into the girl’s head.’ 

“ ‘I’m trying to keep them from ’er,’ said my 
mother. ‘She’s got eyes.’ 

“ ‘And fingers,’ said Matilda with dark allusive¬ 
ness. ‘What’s Prue been seeing now?’ 

“ ‘Marks,’ said my mother. 

“ ‘What marks?’ said Matilda. 

“ ‘Marks enough,’ said my mother. ‘ ’Is things 
are marked one name and ’Er’s another, and neither 
of them Milton, which is the name they’ve given 
us. And the way that woman speaks to you, as 
though she felt you might notice sumpthing— 
friendly like and a bit afraid of you. And that ain’t 
all! By no means all! I’m not blind and Prue isn’t 
blind. There’s kissing and making love going on 
at all times in the day! Directly they’ve got ’ere 
sometimes. Hardly waiting for one to get out of 


the room. I’m not a perfect fool, Matilda. I been 

“ 'What’s that got to do with us? We’re a lodg- 
ing-’ouse, not a set of Nosey Parkers. If Mr. and 
Mrs. Milton like to have their linen marked a 
hundred different names, what’s that to us? Their 
book’s always marked paid in advance with thanks, 
Matilda Good, and that’s married enough for me. 
See? You’re an uneasy woman to have in a lodg¬ 
ing-house, Martha, an uneasy woman. There’s no 
give and take about you. No save your fare. There 
was that trouble you made about the boy and Miss 
Bumpus—ridiculous it was—and now seemingly 
there’s going to be more trouble about Prue and 
Mrs. Milton—who’s a lady, mind you, say what 
you like, and—what’s more—a gentlewoman. I 
wish you’d mind your own business a bit more, 
Martha, and let Mr. and Mrs. Milton mind theirs. 
If they aren’t properly married it’s they’ve got to 
answer for it in the long run, not you. You’ll get 
even with them all right in the Last Great Day. 
Meanwhile do they do ’arm to anyone? A quieter 
couple and less trouble to look after I’ve never had 
in all my lodging-house days.’ 

"My mother made no answer. 

" 'Well?’ challenged Matilda. 

" ‘It’s hard to be waiting on a shameless woman,’ 
said my mother, obstinate and white-lipped. 

" 'It’s harder still to be called a shameless woman 
because you’ve still got your maiden name on some 
of your things,’ said Matilda Good. 'Don’t talk 
such Rubbish, Martha.’ 

" 'I don’t see why ’E should ’ave a maiden name 


too—on ’is pyjamas/ said my mother, rallying after 
a moment. 

“ ‘You don’t know Anything, Martha/ said Ma¬ 
tilda, fixing her with one eye of extreme animosity 
and regarding the question in the abstract with the 
other. ‘I’ve often thought it of you and now I 
say it to you. You don’t know Anything. I’m 
going to keep Mr. and Mrs. Milton as long as I 
can, and if you’re too pernikkety to wait on them, 
there’s those who will. I won’t have my lodgers 
insulted. I won’t have their underclothes dragged 
up against them. Why! Come to think of it! 
Of course! He borrowed those pyjamas of ’is! Or 
they was given him by a gentleman friend they 
didn’t fit. Or he’s been left money and had to 
change his name sudden like. It often happens. 
Often. You see it in the papers. And things get 
mixed in the wash. Some laundries, they’re regular 
Exchanges. Mr. Plaice, he once had a collar with 
Fortescue on it. Brought it back after his summer 
holiday. Fortescue! There’s evidence for you. 
You aren’t going to bring up something against 
Mr. Plaice on account of that, Martha? You aren’t 
going to say he’s been living a double life and isn’t 
properly a bachelor. Do think a little clearer, 
Martha. And don’t think so much evil. There’s 
a hundred ways round before you think evil. But 
you like to think evil, Martha. I’ve noticed it times 
and oft. You fairly wallow in it. You haven’t the 
beginnings of a germ of Christian charity.’ 

“ ‘One can’t help seeing things,’ said my mother 
rather shattered. 

“‘You can’t/ said Matilda Good. ‘There’s those 



who can’t see an inch beyond their noses, and yet 
they see too much. And the more I see of you the 
more I’m inclined to think you’re one of that sort. 
Anyhow, Mr. and Mrs. Milton stay here—whoever 
else goes. Whoever else goes. That’s plain, I hope, 

“My mother was stricken speechless. She bridled 
and subsided and then, except for necessary and 
unavoidable purposes, remained hurt and silent for 
some days, speaking only when she was spoken to. 
Matida did not seem to mind. But I noticed that 
when presently Matilda sent Prue upstairs with the 
Miltons’ tea my mother’s stiffness grew stiffer, but 
she made no open protest.” 

§ 3 

“And then suddenly Fanny reappeared in my 

“It was a mere chance that restored Fanny to 
me. All our links had been severed when we re¬ 
moved from Cliffstone to London. My brother 
Ernest was her herald. 

“We were at supper in the basement room and 
supper was usually a pleasant meal. Matilda Good 
would make it attractive with potatoes roasted in 
their jackets, or what she called a Trying-pan’ of 
potatoes and other vegetables in dripping or such¬ 
like heartening addition to cold bacon and bread 
and cheese and small beer. And she would read 
bits out of the newspaper to us and discuss them, 
having a really very lively intelligence, or she would 
draw me out to talk of the books I’d been reading. 
She took a great interest in murders and such-like 



cases, and we all became great judges of motive 
and evidence under her stimulation. ‘You may 
say it’s morbid, Martha, if you like,’ she said; ‘but 
there never was a murder yet that wasn’t brimful 
of humanity. Brimful. I doubt sometimes if we 
know what anyone’s capable of until they’ve com¬ 
mitted a murder or two.’ 

“My mother rarely failed to rise to her bait. 
‘I can’t think ’ow you can say such things, Matilda,’ 
she would say. . . . 

“We heard the sound of a motor-car in the street 
above. Brother Ernest descended by the area steps 
and my sister Prue let him in. He appeared in 
his chauffeur’s uniform, cap in hand, leather jacket 
and gaiters. 

“ ‘Got a night off?’ asked Matilda. 

“ ‘Court Theatre at eleven,’ said Ernest. ‘So 
I thought I’d come in for a bit of a warm and a 

“ ‘Have a snack?’ said Matilda. ‘Prue, get him 
a plate and a knife and fork and a glass. One 
glass of this beer won’t hurt your driving. Why! 
we haven’t seen you for ages!’ 

“ ‘Thank you, Miss Good,’ said Ernest, who was 
always very polite to her, ‘I will ’ave a snack. I 
bin’ here, there and everywhere, but it isn’t that 
I haven’t wanted to call on you.’ 

“Refreshment was administered and conversa¬ 
tion hung fire for awhile. One or two starts were 
made and came to an early end. Ernest’s manner 
suggested preoccupation and Matilda regarded him 
keenly. ‘And what have you got to tell us, Ernie?’ 
she said suddenly. 



“ ‘We-el/ said Ernest, ‘it’s a curious thing you 
should say that, Miss Good, for I ’ave got some¬ 
thing to tell you. Something—well, I don’t know 
’ow to put it—curious like.” 

“Matilda refilled his glass. 

“ ‘I seen Fanny,” said Ernest, coming to it with 
violent abruptness. 

“ ‘No!’ gasped my mother, and for a moment no 
one else spoke. 

“ ‘So!’ said Matilda, putting her arms on the table 
and billowing forward, ‘you’ve seen Fanny! Pretty 
little Fanny that I used to know. And where did 
you see her, Ernie?’ 

“Ernest had some difficulty in shaping out his 
story. ‘It was a week last Tuesday,’ he said after 
a pause. 

“ ‘She wasn’t—not one of Them—about Victoria 
Station?’ panted my mother. 

“ ‘Did you see her first or did she see you?’ asked 

“ ‘A week ago last Tuesday/ my brother repeated. 

“ ‘And did you speak to her?’ 

“ ‘Not at the time I didn’t. No/ 

“ ‘Did she speak to you?’ 

“ ‘No/ 

“ ‘Then ’ow d’you know it was our Fanny?’ asked 
Prue, who had been listening intently. 

“ ‘I thought she’d gone to ’er fate in some foreign 
country—being so near Boulogne,’ my mother said. 
‘I thought them White Slave Traders ’ad the 
decency to carry a girl off right away from ’er 
’ome. . . . Fanny! On the streets of London! 
Near ’ere. I told ’er what it would come to. Time 



and again I told ’er. Merry an ’onest man I said, 
but she was greedy and ’eadstrong. . . . ’Ead- 
strong and vain. . . . She didn’t try to follow you, 
Ernie, to find out where we were or anything like 

“My brother Ernest’s face displayed his profound 
perplexity. Tt wasn’t at all like that, mother,’ he 
said. Tt wasn’t—that sort of thing. You see-■' 

“He began a struggle with the breast pocket of 
his very tightly fitting leather jacket and at last 
produced a rather soiled letter. He held it in his 
hand, neither attempting to read it nor offering it 
to us. But holding it in his hand seemed to crystal¬ 
lise his very rudimentary narrative powers. ‘I bet¬ 
ter tell you right from the beginning,’ he said. Tt 
isn’t at all what you’d suppose. Tuesday week it 
was; last Tuesday week.’ 

“Matilda Good laid a restraining hand on my 
mother’s arm. Tn the evening I suppose?’ she 

“ Tt was a dinner and fetch,’ said my brother. 
‘Of course you understand I ’adn’t set eyes on 
Fanny for pretty near six years. It was ’er knew 

“ ‘You had to take these people to a dinner and 
fetch them back again?’ said Matilda. 

“ ‘Orders,’ said Ernest, ‘was to go to one-oh-two 
Brantismore Gardens Earl’s Court top flat, to pick 
up lady and gentleman for number to be given in 
Church Row Hampstead and call there ten-thirty 
and take home as directed. Accordingly I went to 
Brantismore Gardens and told the porter in the ’all 
—it was one of these ’ere flat places with a porter 



in livery—that I was there to time waiting. ’E 
telephoned up in the usual way. After a bit, lady 
and gentleman came out of the house and I went 
to the door of the car as I usually do and held it 
open. So far nothing out of the ornary. He was 
a gentleman in evening dress, like most gentlemen; 
she’d got a wrap with fur, and her hair, you know, 
was done up nice for an evening party with some¬ 
thing that sparkled. Quite the lady.’ 

“ ‘And it was Fanny?’ said Prue. 

“Ernest struggled mutely with his subject for 
some moments. ‘Not yet, like,’ he said. 

“ ‘You mean you didn’t recognise her then?’ said 

“ ‘No. But she just looked up at me and seemed 
kind of to start and got in. I saw her sort of lean¬ 
ing forward and looking at me as ’E got in. Fact 
is, I didn’t think much of it. I should have for¬ 
gotten all about it if it ’adn’t been for afterwards. 
But when I took them back something happened. 
I could see she was looking at me. ... We went 
first to one-oh-two Brantismore Gardens again and 
then he got out and says to me, “Just wait a bit 
here,” and then he helped her out. It sort of seemed 
as though she was ’arf-inclined to speak to me and 
then she didn’t. But this time I thinks to myself: 
“I seen you before, somewhere, my Lady.” Oddly 
enough I never thought of Fanny then at all. I 
got as near as thinking she was a bit like ’Arry ’ere. 
But it never entered my ’ead it might be Fanny. 
Strordinary! They went up the steps to the door; 
one of these open entrances it is to several flats, and 
seemed to have a moment’s confabulation under the 


light, looking towards me. Then they went on up 
to the flat.’ 

“ ‘You didn’t know her even then?’ said Prue. 

“ ‘ ’E came down the steps quarternour after per¬ 
haps, looking thoughtful. White wescoat, ’e ’ad, and 
coat over ’is arm. Gave me an address near Sloane 
Street. Got out and produced his tip, rather on the 
large side it was, and stood still kind of thoughtful. 
Seemed inclined to speak and didn’t know what to 
say. “I’ve an account at the garage,” ’e says, “you’ll 
book the car,” and then: “You’re not my usual 
driver,” ’e says. “What’s your name?” “Smith,” 
I says. “Ernest Smith?” he says. “Yes sir,” I says, 
and it was only as I drove off that I asked myself 
’Ow the ’Ell—I reely beg your pardon, Miss Good.’ 

“ ‘Don’t mind me,’ said Matilda. ‘Go on.’ 

“ ’Ow the Juice d’e know that my name was 
Ernest? I nearly ’it a taxi at the corner of Sloane 
Square I was so took up puzzling over it. And it 
was only about three o’clock in the morning, when 
I was lying awake still puzzling over it, that it came 
into my ’ead-’ 

“Ernest assumed the manner of a narrator who 
opens out his culminating surprise. ‘—that that 
young lady I’d been taken out that evening was-’ 

“He paused before his climax. 

“ ‘Penny,’ whispered Prue. 

“ ‘Sister Fanny,’ said Matilda Good. 

“ ‘Our Fanny,’ said my mother. 

“ ‘No less a 'person than Fanny!’ said my brother 
Ernest triumphantly and looked round for the 
amazement proper to such a surprise. 

“ ‘I thought it was going to be Fenny,’ said Prue. 



“ ‘Was she painted up at all?’ asked Matilda. 

“ ‘Not nearly so much painted as most of ’em 
are,’ said my brother Ernest. ‘Pretty nearly every¬ 
one paints nowadays. Titled people. Bishops’ 
ladies. Widows. Everyone. She didn’t strike me 
—well, as belonging to the painted sort particularly, 
not in the least. Kind of fresh and a little pale— 
like Fanny used to be.’ 

“ ‘Was she dressed like a lady—quiet-like?’ 

“ ‘Prosperous/ said Ernest. ‘Reely prosperous. 
But nothing what you might call extravagant.’ 

“ ‘And the house you took ’em to—noisy? Sing¬ 
ing and dancing and the windows open?’ 

“ ‘It was a perfectly respectable quiet sort of ’ouse. 
Blinds down and no row whatever. A private ’ouse. 
The people who came to the door to say good night 
might ’ave been any gentleman and any lady. I see 
the butler. ’E came down to the car. ’E wasn’t 
’ired for the evening. ’E was a real butler. The 
other guests had a private limousine with an oldish, 
careful sort of driver. Whadyou’d speak of as nice 

“ ‘Hardly what you might call being on the streets 
of London,’ said Matilda, turning to my mother. 
‘What was the gentleman like?’ 

“ ‘I don’t want to ’ear of ’im,’ said my mother. 

“ ‘Dissipated sort of man about town—and a bit 
screwed?’ asked Matilda. 

“ ‘ ’E was a lot soberer than most dinner fetches,’ 
said Ernest. ‘I see that when ’e ’andled ’is money. 
Lots of ’em—oh! quite ’igh-class people get—’ow 
shall I say it?—just a little bit funny. ’Umerous 
like. Bit ’nnacurate with the door. ’E wasn’t. 


That’s what I can’t make out. . . . And then 
there’s this letter.’ 

“ ‘Then there’s this letter/ said Matilda. ‘You 
better read it, Martha.’ 

“ ‘How did you get that letter?’ asked my mother, 
not offering to touch it. ‘You don’t mean to say 
she gave you a letter! ’ 

“ ‘It came last Thursday. By post. It was ad¬ 
dressed to me, Ernest Smith, Esq., at the Garage. 
It’s a curious letter—asking about us. I can’t make 
’ead or tail of the whole business. I been thinking 
about it and thinking about it. Knowing ’ow set 
mother was about Fanny—I ’esitated.’ 

“His voice died away. 

“ ‘Somebody,’ said Matilda in the pause that 
followed, ‘had better read that letter/ 

“She looked at my mother, smiled queerly with 
the corners of her mouth down, and then held out 
her hand to Ernest.” 

§ 4 

“It was Matilda who read that letter; my mother’s 
aversion for it was all too evident. I can still 
remember Matilda’s large red face thrust forward 
over the supper things and a little on one side so 
as to bring the eye she was using into focus and 
get the best light from the feeble little gas-bracket. 
Beside her was Prue, with a slack curious face and 
a restive glance that went ever and again to my 
mother’s face, as a bandsman watches the conduct¬ 
or’s baton. My mother sat back wuth a defensive 
expression on her white face, and Ernest was posed, 
wide and large, in a non-committal attitude, os- 


tentatiously unable to ‘make ’ead or tail’ of the 

“ ‘Let’s see,’ said Matilda, and took a preliminary- 
survey of the task before her. . . . 

“ ‘My dear Ernie,’ she says. . . . 

“ ‘My dear Ernie: 

“ ‘It was wonderful seeing you again. I could 

hardly believe it was you even after Mr. — Mr. - 

She’s written it and thought better of it and 
scratched it out again, Mr. Somebody—Mr. Blank— 
had asked your name. I was beginning to fear I’d 
lost you all. Where are you living and how are you 
getting on? You know I went to France and Italy 
for a holiday — lovely, lovely places—and when I 
came back I slipped off at Cliffstone because I 
wanted to see you all again and couldn’t bear leav¬ 
ing you as I had done without a word.’ 

“ ‘She should’ve thought of that before,’ said my 

“ ‘She told me, Mrs. Bradley did, about poor fa¬ 
ther’s accident and death—the first I heard of it. I 
went to his grave in the cemetery and had a good 
cry. I couldn’t help it. Poor old Daddy! It was 
cruel hard luck getting killed as he did. I put a lot 
of flowers on his grave and arranged with Ropes the 
Nurseryman about having the grass cut regularly.’ 

“ ‘And ’im,’ said my mother, ‘lying there! ’E’d ’ve 
rather seen ’er lying dead at ’is feet, ’e said, than ’ave 
’er the fallen woman she was. And she putting flow¬ 
ers over ’im. ’Nough to make ’im turn in ’is grave.’ 

“ ‘But very likely he’s come to think differently 



now, Martha,’ said Matilda soothingly. ‘There’s 
no knowing really, Martha. Perhaps in heaven they 
aren’t so anxious to see people dead at their feet. 
Perhaps they get sort of kind up there. Let me see, 
—where was I? Ah? —grass cut regularly. 

“ ‘Nobody knew where mother and the rest of you 
were. Nobody had an address. I went on to London 
very miserable, hating to have lost you. Mrs. Burch 
said that mother and Prue and Morty had gone to 
London to friends, but where she didn’t know. And 
then behold! after nearly two years, you bob up 
again! It’s too good to be true. Where are the 
others? Is Morty getting educated? Prue must be 
quite grown up? I would love to see them again 
and help them if I can. Dear Ernie, I do want you 
to tell mother and all of them that I am quite safe 
and happy. I am being helped by a friend. The 
one you saw. I’m not a bit fast or bad. I lead a 
very quiet life. I have my tiny little flat here and 
I read a lot and get educated. I work quite hard. 
I’ve passed an examination, Ernie, a university ex¬ 
amination. I’ve learnt a lot of French and Italian 
and some German and about music. I’ve got a 
pianola and I’d love to play it to you or Morty. He 
was always the one for music. Often and often I 
think of you. Tell mother, show her this letter, and 
let me know soon about you all and don’t think 
unkind things of me. ’Member the good times we 
had, Ernie, when we dressed up at Christmas and 
father didn’t know us in the shop, and how you 
made me a doll’s house for my birthday. Oh! and 
cheese pies, Ernie! Cheese pies!’ 



" 'What were cheese pies?’ asked Matilda. 

“ Tt was a sort of silly game we had—passing 
people. I forget exactly. But it used to make us 
laugh—regular roll about we did.’ 

" 'Then she gets back to you, Morty,’ said Matilda, 

" ‘I’d love to help Morty if he still wants to he 
educated. I could now. I could help him a lot. I 
suppose he’s not a boy any longer. Perhaps he’s 
getting educated himself. Give him my love. Give 
mother my love and tell her not to think too badly 
of me. Fanny.’ 

" 'Fanny. Embossed address on her notepaper. 
That’s all.’ 

''Matilda dropped the letter on the table. 'Well?’ 
she said in a voice that challenged my mother. 
'Seems to me that the young woman has struck 
one of the Right Sort—the one straight man in ten 
thousand . . . seems to have taken care of her al¬ 
most more than an ordinary husband might’ve done. 

. . . What’r you going to do about it, Martha?’ 

"Matilda collected herself slowly from the table 
and leant back in her chair, regarding my mother 
with an expression of faintly malevolent irony.” 

§ 5 

"I turned from Matilda’s quizzical face to my 
mother’s drawn intentness. 

" ‘Say what you like, Matilda, that girl is living 
in sin.’ 

“ 'Even that isn’t absolutely proved,’ said Matilda. 

" 'Why should ’E-?’ my mother began and 




“ ‘There’s such things as feats of generosity/ said 
Matilda. ‘Still-’ 

“ ‘No,’ said my mother. ‘We don’t want ’er ’elp. 
I’d be ashamed to take it. While she lives with 
that man-’ 

“ ‘Apparently she doesn’t. But go on.’ 

“ ‘Stainted money,’ said my mother. ‘It’s money 
she ’as from ’im. It’s the money of a Kep Woman.’ 

“Her anger kindled. ‘I’d sooner die than touch 
’er money.’ 

“Her sense of the situation found form and ex¬ 
pression. ‘She leaves ’er ’ome. She breaks ’er 
father’s ’eart. Kills ’im, she does. ’E was never 
the same man after she’d gone; never the same. 
She goes off to shamelessness and luxury. She 
makes ’er own brother drive ’er about to ’er shame.’ 

“ ‘Hardly— makes/ protested Matilda. 

“‘Ow was ’E to avoid it? And then she writes 
this—this letter. Impudent I call it. Impudent! 
Without a word of repentance—not a single word 
of repentance. Does she ’ave the decency to say 
she’s ashamed of ’erself? Not a word. Owns she’s 
still living with a fancy man and means to go on 
doing it, glories in it. And offers us ’er kind assist¬ 
ance—us, what she’s disgraced and shamed. Who 
was it that made us leave Cherry Gardens to ’ide 
our ’eads from our neighbours in London? ’Er! 
And now she’s to come ’ere in ’er moty-car and come 
dancing down these steps, all dressed up and painted, 
to say a kind word to poor mother. ’Aven’t we 
suffered enough about ’er without ’er coming ’ere 
to show ’erself off at us? It’s topsy-turvy. Why! 
if she come ’ere at all, which I doubt—if she comes 


’ere at all she ought to come in sackcloth and ashes 
and on ’er bended knees.’ 

“ ‘She won’t do that, Martha,’ said Matilda Good. 

“ ‘Then let ’er keep away. We don’t want the 
disgrace of ’er. She’s chosen ’er path and let ’er 
abide by it. But ’ere! To come ’ere! ’Ow’r you 
going to explain it?’ 

“ ‘ I’d explain it all right,’ said Matilda unheeded. 

“ ‘’Ow am I going to explain it? And here’s 
Prue! Here’s this Mr. Pettigrew she’s met at the 
Week-day Evening Social and wants to bring to tea! 
’Ow’s she going to explain ’er fine lady sister to ’im? 
Kep Woman! Yes, Matilda, I say it. It’s the name 
for it. That’s what she is. A Kep Woman! Nice 
thing to tell Mr. Pettigrew. ’Ere’s my sister, the 
Kep Woman! ’E’d be off in a jiffy. Shocked ’e’d 
be out of ’is seven senses. ’Ow would Prue ever ’ave 
the face to go to the Week-day Evening Social again 
after a show-up like that? And Ernie. What’s ’E 
going to say about it to the other chaps at the garage 
when they throw it up at him that ’is sister’s a Kep 

“ ‘Don’t you worry about that, mother,’ said 
Ernest gently but firmly. ‘There’s nobody ever 
throws anything up against me at the garage any¬ 
how—and there won’t be. Nohow. Not unless ’E 
wants to swaller ’is teeth.’ 

“ ‘Well, there’s ’Arry. ’E goes to ’is classes, and 
what if someone gets ’old of it there? ’Is sister, 
a Kep Woman. They’d ’ardly let ’im go on work¬ 
ing after such a disgrace.’ 

“ ‘Oh I’d soon-’ I began, following in my 

brother’s wake. But Matilda stopped me with a 



gesture. Her gesture swept round and held my 
mother, who was indeed drawing near the end of 
what she had to say. 

“ T can see, Martha/ said Matilda, ‘just ’ow you 
feel about Fanny. I suppose it’s all natural. Of 
course, this letter-’ 

“She picked up the letter. She pursed her great 
mouth and waggled her clumsy head slowly from 
side to side. ‘For the life of me I can’t believe 
the girl who wrote this is a bad-hearted girl,’ she 
said. ‘You’re bitter with her, Martha. You’re 

“ ‘After all-’ I began, but Matilda’s hand 

stopped me again. 

“‘Bitter!’ cried my mother. ‘I know ’er. She 
can put on that in’cent air just as though nothing 
’ad ’appened and try and make you feel in the 

“Matilda ceased to waggle and began to nod. 
‘I see,’ she said. ‘I see. But why should Fanny 
take the trouble to write this letter, if she hadn’t 
a real sort of affection for you all? As though she 
need have bothered herself about the lot of you! 
You’re no sort of help to her. There’s kindness 
in this letter, Martha, and something more than 
kindness. Are you going to throw it back at her? 
Her and her offers of help? Even if she doesn’t 
crawl and repent as she ought to do! Won’t you 
even answer her letter?’ 

“ ‘I won’t be drawn into a correspondence with 
’er,’ said my mother. ‘No! So long as she’s a 
Kep Woman, she’s no daughter of mine. I wash 
my ’ands of ’er. And as for ’er ’Elp! ’Elp indeed! 



It’s ’Umbug! If she’d wanted ’elp us she could 
have married Mr. Crosby, as fair and honest a man 
as any woman could wish for.’ 

“ ‘So that’s that / said Matilda Good conclusively. 

“Abruptly she swivelled her great head round to 
Ernest. ‘And what are you going to do, Ernie? 
Are you for turning down Fanny? And letting the 
cheese pies just drop into the mud of Oblivium, 
as the saying goes, and be forgotten for ever and 
ever and ever?’ 

“Ernest sat back, put his hand in his trousers 
pocket and remained thoughtful for some moments. 
‘It’s orkward,’ he said. 

“Matilda offered him no assistance. 

“ ‘There’s my Young Lady to consider,’ said 
Ernest and flushed an extreme scarlet. 

“My mother turned her head sharply and looked 
at him. Ernest with a stony expression did not 
look at my mother. 

“ ‘0—oh!’ said Matilda. ‘Here’s something new. 
And who may your Young Lady be, Ernie?’ 

“ ‘Well, I ’adn’t proposed to discuss ’er ’ere just 
yet. So never mind what ’er name is. She’s got 
a little millinery business. I’ll say that for ’er. 
And a cleverer, nicer girl never lived. We met at 
a little dance. Nothing isn’t fixed up yet beyond a 
sort of engagement. There’s been presents. Given 
’er a ring and so forth. But naturally I’ve never 
told ’er anything about Fanny. I ’aven’t discussed 
family affairs with ’er much, not so far. Knows 
we were in business of some sort and ’ad losses and 
father died of an accident; that’s about all. But 



Fanny— Fanny’s certainly going to be orkward 
to explain. Not that I want to be ’ard on Fanny!' 

“ T see,’ said Matilda. She glanced a mute in¬ 
terrogation at Prue and found her answer in Prue’s 
face. Then she picked up the letter again and read 
very distinctly: ‘One hundred and two, Brantismore 
Gardens, Earl’s Court.’ She read this address slowly 
as though she wanted to print it on her memory. 
‘Top flat, you said it was, Ernie? . . 

“She turned to me. ‘And what are you going 
to do, Harry, about all this?’ 

“ ‘I want to see Fanny for myself,’ I said. ‘I 
don’t believe-’ 

“ ‘ ’Arry,’ said my mother, ‘now—once for all 
—I forbid you to go near ’er. I won’t ’ave you 

“ ‘Don’t forbid him, Martha,’ said Matilda. ‘It’s 
no use forbidding him. Because he will! Any boy 
with any heart and spunk in him would go and 
see her after that letter. One hundred and two, 
Brantismore Gardens, Earl’s Court,’—she was very 
clear with the address—‘it’s not very far from here.’ 

“ ‘I forbid you to go near ’er, ’Arry,’ my mother 
reiterated. And then realising too late the full 
importance of Fanny’s letter, she picked it up. ‘I 
won’t ’ave this answered. I’ll burn it as it deserves. 
And forget about it. Banish it from my mind. 

“And then my mother stood up and making a 
curious noise in her throat like the strangulation 
of a sob, she put Fanny’s letter into the fire and 
took the poker to thrust it into the glow and make 
it burn. We all stared in silence as the letter curled 



up and darkened, burst into a swift flame and be¬ 
came in an instant a writhing, agonised, crackling, 
black cinder. Then she sat down again, remained 
still for a moment, and then after a fierce struggle 
with her skirt-pocket dragged out a poor, old, dirty 
pocket-handkerchief and began to weep—at first 
quietly and then with a gathering passion. The 
rest of us sat aghast at this explosion. 

“‘You mustn’t go near Fanny, ’Arry; not if 
mother forbids,’ said Ernest at last, gently but 

“Matilda looked at me in grim enquiry. 

“ ‘I shall,’ I said, and was in a terror lest the 
unmanly tears behind my eyes should overflow. 

“ ‘ ’Arry! ’ cried my mother amidst her sobs. 
‘You’ll break—you’ll break my heart! First Fanny! 
Then you.’ 

“‘You see!’ said Ernest. 

“The storm of her weeping paused as though 
she waited to hear my answer. My silly little face 
must have been very red by this time and there 
was something wrong and uncontrollable about my 
voice, but I said what I meant to say. ‘I shall go 
to Fanny,’ I said, ‘and I shall just ask her straight 
out whether she’s leading a bad life.’ 

“ ‘And suppose she is?’ asked Matilda. 

“ ‘I shall reason with her,’ I said. ‘I shall do 
all I can to save her. Yes—even if I have to find 
some work that will keep her. . . . She’s my 
sister. . . .’ 

“I wept for a moment or so. ‘I can’t help it, 
mother,’ I sobbed. ‘I got to see Fanny!’ 

“I recovered my composure with an effort. 



“ ‘So,’ said Matilda, regarding me, I thought, 
with rather more irony and rather less admiration 
than I deserved. Then she turned to my mother. 
T don’t see that Harry can say fairer than that,’ 
she said. ‘I think you’ll have to let him see her 
after that. He’ll do all he can to save her, he says. 
Who knows? He might bring her to repentance.’ 

“ ‘More likely the other way about,’ said my 
mother, wiping her eyes, her brief storm of tears 
now over. 

“ T can’t ’elp feeling it’s a mistake,’ said Ernest, 
Tor ’Arry to go and see ’er.’ 

“ ‘Well, anyhow don’t give it up because you’ve 
forgotten the address, Harry,’ said Matilda, ‘or else 
you are done. Let it be your own free-will and 
not forgetfulness, if you throw her over. One 
hundred and two Brantismore Gardens, Earl’s Court. 
You’d better write it down.’ 

“ ‘One hundred and two—Brantismore Gardens.’ 

“I went over to my books on the corner table 
to do as she advised sternly and resolutely in a fair 
round hand on the fly-leaf of Smith’s Principia 

§ 6 

“My first visit to Fanny’s flat was quite unlike 
any of the moving scenes I acted in my mind before¬ 
hand. I went round about half-past eight when 
shop was done on the evening next but one after 
Ernest’s revelation. The house seemed to me a 
very dignified one and I went up a carpeted stair¬ 
case to her flat. I rang the bell and she opened 
the door herself. 



“It was quite evident at once that the smiling 
young woman in the doorway had expected to see 
someone else instead of the gawky youth who stood 
before her, and that for some moments she had not 
the slightest idea who I was. Her expression of 
radiant welcome changed to a defensive coldness. 
‘What do you want, please?’ she said to my silent 

“She had altered very much. She had grown, 
though now I was taller than she was, and her wavy 
brown hair was tied by a band of black velvet with 
a brooch on one side of it, adorned with clear-cut 
stones of some sort that shone and twinkled. Her 
face and lips had a warmer colour than I remem¬ 
bered. And she was wearing a light soft greenish- 
blue robe with loose sleeves; it gave glimpses of 
her pretty neck and throat and revealed her white 
arms. She seemed a magically delightful being, 
soft and luminous and sweet-scented and altogether 
wonderful to a young barbarian out of the London 
streets. Her delicacy overawed me. I cleared my 
throat. ‘Fanny!’ I said hoarsely, ‘don’t you know 

“She knitted her pretty brows and then came her 
old delightful smile. ‘Why! It’s Harry!’ she cried 
and drew me into the little hall and hugged and 
kissed me. ‘My little brother Harry, grown as big 
as I am! How wonderful!’ 

“Then she went by me and shut the door and 
looked at me doubtfully. ‘But why didn’t you write 
to me first to say you were coming? Here am I 
dying for a talk with you and here’s a visitor who’s 



coming to see me. May come in at any moment. 
Now what am I to do? Let me see!’ 

“The little hall in which we stood was bright 
with white paint and pretty Japanese pictures. It 
had cupboards to hide away coats and hats and an 
old oak chest. Several doors opened into it and 
two were ajar. Through one I had a glimpse of 
a sofa and things set out for coffee, and through the 
other I saw a long mirror and a chintz-covered arm¬ 
chair. She seemed to hesitate between these two 
rooms and then pushed me into the former one 
and shut the door behind us. 

“ ‘You should have written to tell me you were 
coming,’ she said. ‘I’m dying to talk to you and 
here’s someone coming who’s dying to talk to me. 
But never mind! let’s talk all we can. How are 
you? Well —I can see that. But are you getting 
educated? And mother, how’s mother? What’s 
happened to Prue? And is Ernest as hot-tempered 
as ever?’ 

“I attempted to tell her. I tried to give her an 
impression of Matilda Good and to hint not too 
harshly at my mother’s white implacability. I be¬ 
gan to tell her of my chemist’s shop and how much 
Latin and Chemistry I knew, and in the midst of it 
she darted away from me and stood listening. 

“It was the sound of a latch-key at the door. 

“ ‘My other visitor,’ she said, hesitated a moment 
and was out of the room, leaving me to study her 
furniture and the coffee machine that bubbled on 
the table. She had left the door a little ajar and 
I heard all too plainly the sound of a kiss and then 


a man’s voice. I thought it was rather a jolly 

“ ‘I’m tired, little Fanny; oh! I’m tired to death. 
This new paper is the devil. We’ve started all 
wrong. But I shall pull it off. Gods! if I hadn’t 
this sweet pool of rest to plunge into, I’d go off 
my head! I’d have nothing left to me but head¬ 
lines. Take my coat; there’s a dear. I smell coffee.’ 

“I heard a movement as though Fanny had 
checked her visitor almost at the door of the room 
I was in. I heard her say something very quickly 
about a brother. 

“ 'Oh, Damn!’ said the man very heartily. ‘Not 
another of ’em! How many brothers have you 
got, Fanny? Send him away. I’ve only got an 
hour altogether, my dear-’ 

“Then the door closed sharply—Fanny must have 
discovered it was ajar—and the rest of the talk was 

“Fanny reappeared, a little flushed and bright¬ 
eyed and withal demure. She had evidently been 
kissed again. 

“ ‘Harry,’ she said, ‘I hate to ask you to go and 
come again, but that other visitor—I’d promised 
him first. Do you mind, Harry? I’m longing for 
a good time with you, a good long talk. You get 
your Sundays, Harry? Well, why not come here 
at three on Sunday when I’ll be quite alone and 
we’ll have a regular good old tea? Do you mind, 

“I said I didn’t. In that flat ethical values 
seemed quite different to what they were outside. 



“ ‘After all, you did ought to have written first/ 
said Fanny, ‘instead of just jumping out on me 
out of the dark.’ 

“There was no one in the hall when she showed 
me out and not even a hat or coat visible. ‘Give 
me a kiss, Harry/ she said and I kissed her very 
readily. ‘Quite sure you don’t mind?’ she said 
at her door. 

“ ‘Not a bit,’ I said. ‘I ought to have written.’ 

“ ‘Sunday at three,’ she said, as I went down the 
carpeted staircase. 

“ ‘Sunday at three/ I replied at the bend of the 

“Downstairs there was a sort of entrance hall 
to all the flats with a fire burning in a fire-place and 
a man ready to call a cab or taxi for anyone who 
wanted one. The prosperity and comfort of it all 
impressed me greatly, and I was quite proud to be 
walking out of such a fine place. It was only when 
I had gone some way along the street that I began 
to realise how widely my plans for the evening had 

“I had not asked her whether she was living a 
bad life or not and I had reasoned with her not at 
all. The scenes I had rehearsed in my mind before¬ 
hand, of a strong and simple and resolute younger 
brother saving his frail but lovable sister from 
terrible degradations, had indeed vanished altogether 
from my mind when her door had opened and she 
had appeared. And here I was with the evening 
all before me and nothing to report to my family 
but the profound difference that lies between 



romance and reality. I decided not to report to my 
family at all yet, but to go for a very long walk and 
think this Fanny business over thoroughly, returning 
home when it would be too late for my mother to 
cross-examine me and 'draw me out’ at any length. 

“I made for the Thames Embankment, for that 
afforded uncrowded pavements and the solemnity 
and incidental beauty appropriate to a meditative 

“It is curious to recall now the phases of my 
mind that night. At first the bright realities I came 
from dominated me: Fanny pretty and prosperous, 
kindly and self-assured, in her well-lit, well-fur¬ 
nished flat, and the friendly and confident voice I 
had heard speaking in the hall, asserted themselves 
as facts to be accepted and respected. It was de¬ 
lightful after more than two years of ugly imagina¬ 
tions to have the glimpse of my dear sister again so 
undefeated and loved and cared for and to look 
forward to a long time with her on Sunday and a 
long confabulation upon all I had done in the mean¬ 
time and all I meant to do. Very probably these 
two people were married after all, but unable for 
some obscure reason to reveal the fact to the world. 
Perhaps Fanny would tell me as much in the 
strictest confidence on Sunday and I could go home 
and astonish and quell my mother with the whis¬ 
pered secret. And even as I developed and cuddled 
this idea it grew clear and cold and important in 
my mind that they were not married at all, and 
the shades of a long-accumulated disapproval 
dimmed that first bright impression of Fanny’s little 
nest. I felt a growing dissatisfaction with the part 



I had played in our encounter. I had let myself 
be handled and thrust out as though I had been 
a mere boy instead of a brother full of help and 
moral superiority. Surely I ought to have said 
something, however brief, to indicate our relative 
moral positions! I ought to have faced that man 
too, the Bad Man, lurking no doubt in the room 
with the mirror and the chintz-covered chair. He 
had avoided seeing me—because he could not face 
me! And from these new aspects of the case I 
began to develop a whole new dream of reproach 
and rescue. What should I have said to the Bad 
Man? ‘And so, Sir, at last we meet-’ 

“Something like that. 

“My imagination began to leap and bound and 
soar with me. I pictured the Bad Man, dressed 
in that ‘immaculate evening dress’ which my novels 
told me marked the deeper and colder depths of 
male depravity, cowering under my stream of simple 
eloquence. ‘You took her,’ I would say, ‘from our 
homely but pure and simple home. You broke her 
father’s heart’—yes, I imagined myself saying that! 
—‘And what have you made of her?’ I asked. 
‘Your doll, your plaything! to be pampered while 
the whim lasts and then to be cast aside!’ Or— 
‘tossed aside’? 

“I decided ‘tossed aside’ was better. 

“I found myself walking along the Embankment, 
gesticulating and uttering such things as that.” 

“But you knew better?” said Firefly. “Even then.” 

“I knew better. But that was the way our minds 
worked in the ancient days.” 



§ 7 

“But,” said Sarnac, “my second visit to Fanny, 
like my first, was full of unexpected experiences 
and unrehearsed effects. The carpet on the pleasant 
staircase seemed to deaden down my moral tramp- 
lings, and when the door opened and I saw my dear 
Fanny again, friendly and glad, I forgot altogether 
the stern interrogations with which that second 
interview was to have opened. She pulled my hair 
and kissed me, took my hat and coat, said I had 
grown tremendously and measured herself against 
me, pushed me into her bright little sitting-room, 
where she had prepared such a tea as I had never 
seen before, little ham sandwiches, sandwiches of a 
delightful stuff called Gentleman’s Relish, straw¬ 
berry jam, two sorts of cake, and little biscuits to 
fill in any odd corners. ‘You are a dear to come and 
see me, Harry. But I had a sort of feeling that 
whatever happened you would come along.’ 

“ ‘We two always sort of hung together,’ I said. 

“ ‘Always,’ she agreed. ‘I think mother and Ernie 
might have written me a line. Perhaps they will 
later. Ever seen an electric kettle, Harry? This 
is one. And you put that plug in there.’ 

“ ‘I know,’ I said, and did as I was told. ‘There’s 
resistances embedded in the coating. I’ve been 
doing some electricity and chemistry. Council 
classes. Six’r seven subjects altogether. And 
there’s a shop-window in Tothill Street full of such 

“ ‘I expect you know all about them,’ she said. 
‘I expect you’ve learnt all sorts of sciences,’ and 



so we came to the great topic of what I was learning 
and what I was going to do. 

“It was delightful to talk to someone who really 
understood the thirst for knowledge that possessed 
me. I talked of myself and my dreams and ambi¬ 
tions, and meanwhile, being a growing youth, my 
arm swept like a swarm of locusts over Fanny’s 
wonderful tea. Fanny watched me with a smile on 
her face and steered me with questions towards 
the things she most wanted to know. And when we 
had talked enough for a time she showed me how 
to play her pianola and I got a roll of Schumann 
that Mr. Plaice had long ago made familiar to me 
and had the exquisite delight of playing it over for 
myself. These pianolas were quite easy things to 
manage, I found; in a little while I was already 
playing with conscious expression. 

“Fanny praised me for my quickness, cleared 
her tea-things away while I played, and then came 
and sat beside me and listened and talked and we 
found w T e had learnt quite a lot about music since 
our parting. We both thought great things of Bach, 
—whom I found I was calling quite incorrectly 
Batch—and Mozart, who also had to be pronounced 
a little differently. And then Fanny began to ques¬ 
tion me about the work I wanted to do in the world. 
'You mustn’t stay with that old chemist much 
longer,’ she declared. How would I like to do some 
sort of work that had to do with books, bookselling 
or helping in a library or printing and publishing 
books and magazines? 'You’ve never thought of 
writing things?’ asked Fanny. ‘People do.’ 

“ ‘I made some verses once or twice,’ I confessed, 


‘and wrote a letter to the Daily News about temper¬ 
ance. But they didn’t put it in.’ 

“ ‘Have you ever wanted to write?’ 

“ ‘What, books? Like Arnold Bennett? Rather!’ 

“ ‘But you didn’t quite know how to set about it.’ 

“ ‘It’s difficult to begin,’ I said, as though that 
was the only barrier. 

“ ‘You ought to leave that old chemist’s shop,’ 
she repeated. ‘If I were to ask people I know and 
found out some better sort of job for you, Harry, 
would you take it?’ 

“ ‘Rather!’ said I.” 

‘Why not altogether?” interrupted Firefly. 

“Oh! we used to say Rather,” said Sarnac. “It 
was artistic understatement. But you realise how 
dreadfully I lapsed from all my preconceived notions 
about Fanny and myself. We talked the whole 
evening away. We had a delightful cold picnic sup¬ 
per in a pretty little dining-room with a dresser, and 
Fanny showed me how to make a wonderful salad 
wflth onions very finely chopped and white wine 
and sugar in the dressing. And afterwards came 
some more of that marvel, the pianola, and then 
very reluctantly I took my leave. And when I found 
myself in the streets again I had once more my 
former sense of having dropped abruptly from one 
world into another, colder, bleaker, harder, and with 
entirely different moral values. Again I felt the same 
reluctance to go straight home and have my evening- 
dimmed and destroyed by a score of pitiless ques¬ 
tions. And when at last I did go home I told a lie. 
‘Fanny’s got a pretty place and she’s as happy as 
can be,’ I said. ‘I’m not quite sure, but from what 


she said, I believe that man’s going to marry her 
before very long.’ 

“My cheeks and ears grew hot under my mother’s 
hostile stare. 

“ ‘Did she tell you that?’ 

“ ‘Practically,’ I lied. ‘I kind of got it out of her.’ 

“ ‘But ’e’s married already!’ said my mother. 

“ ‘I believe there is something,’ I said. 

“ ‘Soviething!’ said my mother scornfully. ‘She’s 
stolen another woman’s man. ’E belongs to ’er 
—for ever. No matter what there is against ’er. 
“Whomsoever God Hath Joined, Let No Man Put 
Asunder!”—that’s what I was taught and what I 
believe. ’E may be older; ’e may have led her 
astray, but while she and ’e harbour together the 
sin is ’ers smutch as ’is. Did you see ’im?’ 

“ ‘He wasn’t there.’ 

“ ‘ ’Adn’t the face. That’s so much to their credit. 
And are you going there again?’ 

“ ‘I’ve kind of promised-’ 

“ ‘It’s against my wishes, ’Arry. Every time you 
go near Fanny, ’Arry, you disobey me. Mark that. 
Let’s be plain about that, once and for all.’ 

“I felt mulish. ‘She’s my sister,’ I said. 

“ ‘And I’m your mother. Though nowadays 
mothers are no more than dirt under their children’s 
feet. Marry ’er indeed! Why should ’e? Likely. 
’E’ll marry the next one. Come, Prue, take that bit 
of coal off the fire and we’ll go up to bed.’ ” 

§ 8 

“And now,” said Sarnac, “I must tell you of the 
queer business organisation of Thunderstone House 



and the great firm of Crane & Newberry, for whom, 
at Fanny’s instance, I abandoned Mr. Humberg and 
his gold-labelled bottles of nothingness. Crane & 
Newberry were publishers of newspapers, magazines 
and books, and Thunderstone House was a sort of 
fountain of printed paper, spouting an unending 
wash of reading matter into the lives of the English 

“I am talking of the world two thousand years 
ago,” said Sarnac. “No doubt you have all been 
good children and have read your histories duly, but 
at this distance in time things appear very much 
foreshortened, and changes that occupied lifetimes 
and went on amidst dense clouds of doubt, mis¬ 
understanding and opposition seem to be the easiest 
and most natural of transitions. We were all taught 
that the scientific method came into human affairs 
first of all in the world of material things, and later 
on in the matters of psychology and human relation¬ 
ship, so that the large-scale handling of steel, and 
railways, automobiles, telegraphs, flying machines 
and all the broad material foundations of the new 
age were in existence two or three generations before 
social, political and educational ideas and methods 
were modified in correspondence with the new neces¬ 
sities these things had created. There was a great 
unanticipated increase in the trade and population 
of the world and much confusion and conflict, vio¬ 
lent social stresses and revolutions and great wars, 
before even the need of a scientific adjustment of 
human relationships was recognised. It is easy 
enough to learn of such things in general terms but 
hard to explain just what these processes of blind 



readjustment meant in anxiety, suffering and distress 
to the countless millions who found themselves born 
into the swirl of this phase of change. As I look 
back to that time in which I lived my other life I 
am reminded of a crowd of people in one of my old 
Pimlico fogs. No one had any vision of things as 
a whole; everybody was feeling his way slowly and 
clumsily from one just perceptible thing to another. 
And nearly everybody was uneasy and disposed to 
be angry. 

“It is clear beyond question to us now, that the 
days of illiterate drudges were already past in the 
distant nineteenth century, for power-machinery had 
superseded them. The new world, so much more 
complicated and dangerous, so much richer and 
ampler, was a world insisting upon an educated 
population, educated intellectually and morally. 
But in those days these things were not at all clear, 
and it was grudgingly and insufficiently that access 
to knowledge and enlightenment was given by the 
learned and prosperous classes to the rapidly accu¬ 
mulating masses of the population. They insisted 
that it should be done by special channels and in a 
new and different class of school. I have told you of 
what passed for my education, reading and writing, 
rudimentary computations, ‘jogfry’ and so forth. 
That sort of process, truncated by employment at 
thirteen or fourteen, when curiosity and interest 
were just beginning to awaken, was as far as educa¬ 
tion had gone for the bulk of the common men and 
women in the opening years of the twentieth cen¬ 
tury. It had produced a vast multitude of people, 
just able to read, credulous and uncritical and piti- 



fully curious to learn about life and things, pitifully 
wanting to see and know. As a whole the com¬ 
munity did nothing to satisfy the vague aspirations 
of those half-awakened swarms; it was left to ‘pri¬ 
vate enterprise’ to find what profits it could in their 
dim desires. A number of great publishing busi¬ 
nesses arose to trade upon the new reading public 
that this ‘elementary’ education, as we called it, had 

“In all ages people have wanted stories about life. 
The young have always wanted to be told about the 
stage on which they are beginning to play their 
parts, to be shown the chances and possibilities of 
existence, vividly and dramatically, so that they 
may imagine and anticipate their own reactions. 
And even those who are no longer youthful have 
always been eager to supplement their experiences 
and widen their judgment by tales and histories and 
discussions. There has been literature since there 
has been writing, since indeed there was enough 
language for story-telling and reciting. And always 
literature has told people what their minds were 
prepared to receive, searching for what it should 
tell rather in the mind and expectation of the hearer 
or reader—who was the person who paid—than in 
the unendowed wildernesses of reality. So that the 
greater part of the literature of every age has been 
a vulgar and ephemeral thing interesting only to 
the historian and psychologist of later times because 
of the light it threw upon the desires and imagina¬ 
tive limitations of its generation. But the popular 
literature of the age in which Harry Mortimer Smith 
was living was more abundant, more cynically insin- 



cere, lazy, cheap and empty than anything that the 
world had ever seen before. 

“You would accuse me of burlesque if I were to 
tell you the stories of the various people who built 
up immense fortunes by catering for the vague needs 
of the new reading crowds that filled the hypertro¬ 
phied cities of the Atlantic world. There was a 
certain Newnes of whom legend related that one 
day after reading aloud some item of interest to 
his family he remarked, T call that a regular tit-bit.’ 
From that feat of nomenclature he went on to the 
idea of a weekly periodical full of scraps of interest, 
cuttings from books and newspapers and the like. 
A hungry multitude, eager and curious, was ready 
to feed greedily on such hors d’oeuvre. So Tit-Bits 
came into existence, whittled from a thousand 
sources by an industrious and not too expensive 
staff, and Newnes became a man of wealth and a 
baronet. His first experiment upon the new public 
encouraged him to make a number of others. He 
gave it a monthly magazine full of short stories 
drawn from foreign sources. At first its success was 
uncertain, and then a certain Dr. Conan Doyle rose 
to fame in it and carried it to success with stories 
about crime and the detection of crime. Every 
intelligent person in those days, everyone indeed 
intelligent or not, was curious about the murders 
and such-like crimes which still abounded. Indeed, 
there could have been no more fascinating and de¬ 
sirable subject for us; properly treated such cases 
illuminated the problems of law, training and control 
in our social welter as nothing else could have done. 
The poorest people bought at least a weekly paper 



in order to quicken their wits over murder mysteries 
and divorces, driven by an almost instinctive need 
to probe motives and judge restraints. But Conan 
Doyle’s stories had little of psychology in them; he 
tangled a skein of clues in order to disentangle it 
again, and his readers forgot the interest of the 
problem in the interest of the puzzle. 

“Hard upon the heels of Newnes came a host of 
other competitors, among others a certain Arthur 
Pearson and a group of brothers Harmsworth who 
rose to great power and wealth from the beginning 
of a small weekly paper called Answers, inspired 
originally by the notion that people liked to read 
other people’s letters. You will find in the histories 
how two of these Harmsworths, men of great thrust 
and energy, became Lords of England and promi¬ 
nent figures in politics, but I have to tell of them 
now simply to tell you of the multitude of papers 
and magazines they created to win the errand-boy’s 
guffaw, the heart of the factory girl, the respect of 
the aristocracy and the confidence of the nouveau 
riche. It was a roaring factory of hasty printing. 
Our own firm at Thunderstone House was of an older 
standing than these Newnes, Pearson, Harmsworth 
concerns. As early as the eighteenth century the 
hunger for knowledge had been apparent, and a 
certain footman turned publisher, named Dodsley, 
had produced a book of wisdom called the Young 
Man’s Companion. Our founder, Crane, had done 
the same sort of thing in Early Victorian times. He 
had won his way to considerable success with a 
Home Teacher in monthly parts and with Crane’s 
Circle of the Sciences and a weekly magazine and so 



forth. His chief rivals had been two firms called 
Cassell’s and Routledge’s, and for years, though he 
worked upon a smaller capital, he kept well abreast 
of them. For a time the onrush of the newer popu¬ 
lar publishers had thrust Crane and his contempo¬ 
raries into the background and then, reconstructed 
and reinvigorated by a certain Sir Peter Newberry, 
the old business had won its way back to prosperity, 
publishing a shoal of novelette magazines and cheap 
domestic newspapers for women, young girls and 
children, reviving the Home Teacher on modern 
lines with a memory training system and a Guide 
to Success by Sir Peter Newberry thrown in, and 
even launching out into scientific handbooks of a 
not too onerous sort. 

“It is difficult for you to realise,” said Sarnac, 
“what a frightful lot of printed stuff there was in 
that old world. It w r as choked with printed rubbish 
just as it was choked with human rubbish and a 
rubbish of furniture and clothing and every sort of 
rubbish; there was too much of the inferior grades 
of everything. And good things incredibly rare! 
You cannot imagine how delightful it is for me to 
sit here again, naked and simple, talking plainly 
and nakedly in a clear and beautiful room. The 
sense of escape, of being cleansed of unnecessary 
adhesions of any sort, is exquisite. We read a book 
now and then and talk and make love naturally and 
honestly and do our work and thought and research 
with well-aired, well-fed brains, and we live with all 
our senses and abilities taking a firm and easy grip 
upon life. But stress was in the air of the twentieth 
century. Those who had enough courage fought 



hard for knowledge and existence, and to them we 
sold our not very lucid or helpful Home Teacher and 
our entirely base Guide to Success; but great multi¬ 
tudes relaxed their hold upon life in a way that is 
known now only to our morbid psychologists. They 
averted their attention from reality and gave them¬ 
selves up to reverie. They went about the world 
distraught in a day-dream, a day-dream that they 
were not really themselves, but beings far nobler 
and more romantic, or that presently things would 
change about them into a dramatic scene centring 
about themselves. These novelette magazines and 
popular novels that supplied the chief part of the 
income of Crane & Newberry, were really helps to 
reverie—mental drugs. Sunray, have you ever read 
any twentieth-century novelettes?” 

“One or two,” said Sunray. “It’s as you say. I 
suppose I have a dozen or so. Some day you shall 
see my little collection.” 

“Very likely ours —half of them,—Crane & New¬ 
berry’s I mean. It will be amusing to see them 
again. The great bulk of this reverie material was 
written for Crane & Newberry by girls and women 
and by a type of slack imaginative men. These 
‘authors,’ as we called them, lived scattered about 
London or in houses on the country-side, and they 
sent their writings by post to Thunderstone House, 
where we edited them in various ways and put the 
stuff into our magazines and books. Thunderstone 
House was a great rambling warren of a place open¬ 
ing out of Tottenham Court Road, with a yard into 
which huge lorries brought rolls of paper and from 
which vans departed with our finished products. It 



was all a-quiver with the roar and thudding of the 
printing machinery. I remember very vividly to 
this day how I went there first, down a narrow road¬ 
way out of the main thoroughfare, past a dingy 
public-house and the stage door of a theatre.” 

“What were you going to do—pack up books? 
Or run errands?” asked Radiant. 

“I was to do what I could. Very soon I was on 
the general editorial staff.” 

“Editing popular knowledge?” 


“But why did they want an illiterate youngster 
like yourself at Thunderstone House?” asked Radi¬ 
ant. “I can understand that this work of instruct¬ 
ing and answering the first crude questions of the 
new reading classes was necessarily a wholesale 
improvised affair, but surely there were enough 
learned men at the ancient universities to do all the 
editing and instructing that was needed!” 

Sarnac shook his head. “The amazing thing is 
that there weren’t,” he said. “They produced men 
enough of a sort but they weren’t the right sort.” 

His auditors looked puzzled. 

“The rank-and-file of the men they sent out 
labelled M.A. and so forth from Oxford and Cam¬ 
bridge were exactly like those gilt-lettered jars in 
Mr. Humberg’s shop, that had nothing in them but 
stale water. The pseudo-educated man of the older 
order couldn’t teach, couldn’t write, couldn’t explain. 
He was pompous and patronising and prosy; timid 
and indistinct in statement, with no sense of the 
common need or the common quality. The pro¬ 
moted office-boy, these new magazine and newspaper 



people discovered, was brighter and better at the 
job, comparatively modest and industrious, eager 
to know things and impart things. The editors of 
our periodicals, the managers of our part publica¬ 
tions and so forth were nearly all of the office-boy 
class, hardly any of them, in the academic sense, 
educated. But many of them had a sort of educa¬ 
tional enthusiasm and all of them a boldness that 
the men of the old learning lacked. . . 

Sarnac reflected. “In Britain at the time I am 
speaking about—and in America also—there were 
practically two educational worlds and two tradi¬ 
tions of intellectual culture side by side. There was 
all this vast fermenting hullabaloo of the new pub¬ 
lishing, the new press, the cinema theatres and so 
forth, a crude mental uproar arising out of the new 
elementary schools of the nineteenth century, and 
there was the old aristocratic education of the seven¬ 
teenth and eighteenth centuries, which had picked 
up its tradition from the Augustan age of Rome. 
They didn’t mix. On the one hand were these office- 
boy fellows with the intellectual courage and vigour 
—oh! of Aristotle and Plato, whatever the quality 
of their intellectual equipment might be; on the 
other the academic man, affectedly Grecian, like 
the bought and sold learned man of the days of 
Roman slavery. He had the gentility of the house¬ 
hold slave; he had the same abject respect for 
patron, prince and patrician; he had the same metic¬ 
ulous care in minor matters, and the same fear of 
uncharted reality. He criticised like a slave, sneer¬ 
ing and hinting, he quarrelled like a slave, despised 
all he dared despise with the eagerness of a slave. 



He was incapable of serving the multitude. The 
new reading-crowd, the working masses, the ‘democ¬ 
racy’ as we used to call it, had to get its knowledge 
and its wisdom without him. 

“Crane, our founder, had had in his day some 
inkling of the educational function such businesses 
as his were bound to serve in the world, but Sir 
Peter Newberry had been a hard tradesman, intent 
only on recovering the prosperity that the newer 
popular publishers had filched away from our firm. 
He was a hard-driving man; he drove hard, he paid 
in niggardly fashion and he succeeded. He had been 
dead now for some years and the chief shareholder 
and director of the firm was his son Richard. He 
was nicknamed the Sun; I think because someone 
had quoted Shakespeare about the winter of our 
discontent being made summer by this Sun of York. 
He was by contrast a very genial and warming per¬ 
son. He was acutely alive to the moral responsibility 
that lay behind the practical irresponsibility of a 
popular publisher. If anything, he drove harder 
than his father, but he paid generously; he tried to 
keep a little ahead of the new public instead of a 
little behind; the times moved in his favour and he 
succeeded even more than his father had done. I 
had been employed by Crane & Newberry for many 
weeks before I saw him, but in the first office I 
entered in Thunderstone House I saw the evidences 
of his personality in certain notices upon the wall. 
They were printed in clear black letters on cards 
and hung up. It was his device for giving the house 
a tone of its own. 

“I remember ‘We lead; the others imitate,’ and 



‘If you are in any doubt about its being too good 
put it in.’ A third was: ‘If a man doesn’t know 
what you know that’s no reason for waiting as if 
he was an all-round fool. Rest assured there is 
something he knows better than you do.’ ” 

§ 9 

“It took me some time to get from the yard of 
Thunderstone House to the office in which these 
inscriptions were displayed. Fanny had told me to 
ask for Mr. Cheeseman, and when I had discovered 
and entered the doorway up a flight of steps, which 
had at first been masked by two large vans, I made 
this demand of an extremely small young lady en¬ 
closed in a kind of glass cage. She had a round face 
and a bright red button of a nose. She was engaged, 
I realised slowly, in removing a foreign stamp from 
a fragment of envelope by licking the back of the 
paper. She did not desist from this occupation but 
mutely asked my business with her eyes. 

“ ‘Oran-amoiment?’ she asked, still licking. 

“ ‘Pardon?’ 

“ ‘Oran-amoiment?’ 

“ ‘I’m sorry,’ I said, ‘I don’t get it quite.’ 

“ ‘Mus’ be deaf,’ she said, putting down the stamp 
and taking a sufficient breath for slow loud speech. 
‘ ’Ave you gottonappointment?’ 

“‘Oh!’ I said. ‘Yes. I was told to come here 
to-day and see Mr. Cheeseman between ten and 

She resumed her struggle with the stamp for a 
time. ‘S’pose you don’t c’lect stamps?’ she asked. 
‘ ’Sintresting ’obby. Mr. Cheeseman’s written a 



little ’andbook about it. Looking for a job, I sup¬ 
pose? May ’ave to wait a bit. Will you fill up 
that bit of paper there? Formality we ’ave to insist 
on. Pencil. . . .’ 

“The paper demanded my name and my business 
and I wrote that the latter was 'literary employ¬ 

“ ‘Lordy,’ said the young lady when she read 
it. ‘I thought you was in for the ware’ouse. I say, 
Florence,’ she said to another considerably larger 
girl who had appeared on the staircase, 'look at ’im. 
’E’s after litry emplyment.’ 

“'Cheek!’ said the second young lady after one 
glance at me, and sat down inside the glass box with 
a piece of chewing gum and a novelette just pub¬ 
lished by the firm. The young lady with the button 
nose resumed her stamp damping. They kept me 
ten minutes before the smaller one remarked: ‘Spose 
I better take this up to Mr. Cheeseman, Flo,’ and 
departed with my form. 

“She returned after five minutes or so. 'Mr. 
Cheeseman says ’E can see you now for one minute,’ 
she said, and led the way up a staircase and along a 
passage that looked with glass windows into a print¬ 
er’s shop and down a staircase and along a dark 
passage to a small apartment with an office table, 
one or two chairs, and bookshelves covered with 
paper-covered publications. Out of this opened 
another room, and the door was open. 'You better 
sit down here,’ said the young lady with the button 

‘"That Smith?’ asked a voice. 'Come right in.’ 


“I went in, and the young lady with the button 
nose vanished from my world. 

“I discovered a gentleman sunken deeply in an 
arm-chair before a writing-table, and lost in con¬ 
templation of a row of vivid drawings which were 
standing up on a shelf against the wall of the room. 
He had an intensely earnest, frowning, red face, a 
large broad mouth intensely compressed, and stiff 
black hair that stood out from his head in many 
directions. His head was slightly on one side and 
he was chewing the end of a lead-pencil. ‘Don’t see 
it/ he whispered. ‘Don’t see it.’ I stood awaiting 
his attention. ‘Smith,’ he murmured, still not look¬ 
ing at me, ‘Harry Mortimer Smith. Smith, were 
you by any chance educated at a Board School?’ 

“ ‘Yessir,’ I said. 

“ ‘I hear you have literary tastes.’ 

“ ‘Yessir.’ 

“ ‘Then come here and stand by me and look at 
these damned pictures there. Did you ever see such 

“I stood by his side but remained judiciously 
silent. The drawings I now perceived were designs 
for a magazine cover. Upon all of them appeared 
the words ‘The New World’ in very conspicuous 
lettering. One design was all flying machines and 
steamships and automobiles; two others insisted 
upon a flying machine; one showed a kneeling loin- 
clothed man saluting the rising sun—which however 
rose behind him. Another showed a planet earth 
half illuminated, and another was simply a workman 
going to his work in the dawn. 

“ ‘Smith,’ said Mr. Cheeseman, ‘it’s you’ve got to 



buy this magazine, not me. Which of these covers 
do you prefer? It’s your decision. Fiat experimen- 
tum in corpore vili! 

“ ‘Meaning me, Sir?’ I said brightly. 

“His bristle eyebrows displayed a momentary 
surprise. ‘I suppose we’re all fitted with the same 
tags nowadays,’ he remarked. ‘Which do you find 
most attractive?’ 

“ ‘Those aeroplane things, Sir, seem to me to be 
shoving it a bit too hard,’ I said. 

“ ‘H’m,’ said Mr. Cheeseman. ‘That’s what the 
Sun says. You wouldn’t buy on that?’ 

“ ‘I don’t think so, Sir. It’s been done too much.’ 

“ ‘How about that globe?’ 

“ ‘Too like an Atlas, Sir.’ 

“ ‘Aren’t geography and travel interesting?’ 

“ ‘They are, Sir, but somehow they aren’t attrac¬ 

“ ‘Interesting but not attractive. H’m. Out of 
the mouths of babes and sucklings. ... So it’s 
going to be that labour chap there in the dawn. 
You’d buy that, eh?’ 

“ ‘Is this going to be a magazine about inventions 
and discoveries and progress, Sir?’ 

“ ‘Exactly.’ 

“ ‘Well, the Dawn’s good, Sir, but I don’t think 
that sort of Labour Day Cartoon man is going to 
be very attractive. Looks rheumatic and heavy, Sir. 
Why not cut him out and keep the dawn?’ 

“ ‘Bit too like a slice of ham, Smith—thin pink 

“I was struck by an idea. ‘Suppose, Sir, you kept 
that dawn scene and made it a bit earlier in the 



year. Buds on the trees, Sir. And perhaps snowy 
mountains, rather cold and far off. And then you 
put a hand right across it—just a big hand—point¬ 
ing, Sir.’ 

“ ‘Pointing up?’ said Mr. Cheeseman. 

“ ‘No, Sir, pointing forward and just a little up. 
It would sort of make one curious.’ 

“ ‘It would. A woman’s hand.’ 

“ ‘Just a hand I think, Sir.’ 

“ ‘You’d buy that?’ 

“ ‘I’d jump at it, Sir, if I had the money.’ 

“Mr. Cheeseman reflected for some moments, 
chewing his pencil serenely. Then he spat out small 
bits of pencil over his desk and spoke. ‘What 
you say, Smith, is exactly what I’ve been thinking. 
Exactly. It’s very curious.’ He pressed a bell-push 
on his desk and a messenger girl appeared. ‘Ask 
Mr. Prelude to come here. ... So you think you’d 
like to come into Thunderstone House, Smith. I’m 
told you know a little about science already. Learn 
more. Our public’s moving up to science. I’ve got 
some books over there I want you to read and pick 
out anything you find interesting.’ 

“ ‘You’ll be able to find me a job, Sir?’ I said. 

“ ‘I’ve got to find you a job all right. Orders is 
orders. You’ll be able to sit in that room there. . . .’ 

“We were interrupted by the arrival of Mr. Pre¬ 
lude. He was a tall, thin, cadaverous man with a 
melancholy expression. 

“ ‘Mr. Prelude,’ said Mr. Cheeseman, waving his 
arm at the cover sketches, ‘this stuff won’t do. It’s 
—it’s too banal. We want something fresher, some¬ 
thing with a touch of imagination. What I want to 



see on the cover is—well, say a dawn—a very calm 
and simple scene, mostly colour, mountain range far 
away just flushed with sunrise, valley blue and still, 
high streamer clouds touched with pink. See? Trees 
perhaps in the foreground—just budding—spring 
motij and morning motij. See? All a little faint 
and backgroundy. Then a big hand and wrist across 
the page pointing at something, something high and 
far away. See?’ 

“He surveyed Mr. Prelude with the glow of 
creative enthusiasm on his face. Mr. Prelude looked 
disapproval. ‘The Sun will like that,’ he said. 

“ ‘It’s the goods,’ said Mr. Cheeseman. 

“ ‘Why not those flying machines?’ 

“ ‘Why not midges?’ asked Mr. Cheeseman. 

“Mr. Prelude shrugged his shoulders. ‘I’ve got 
no use for a magazine on progress without a flying 
machine or a Zeppelin,’ he said. ‘Still—it’s your 

“Mr. Cheeseman looked a little dashed by his 
colleague’s doubt, but he held to his idea. ‘We’ll 
get a sketch made,’ he said. ‘How about Wilkinson?’ 

“They discussed some unknown Wilkinson as a 
possible cover designer. Then Mr. Cheeseman turned 
to me. ‘By the by, here’s a youngster we’ve got to 
make use of, Prelude. We don’t know what he can 
do, but he seems intelligent. I thought we’d use 
him to sift some of those scientific books. What he 
likes, they’ll like. I can’t read that stuff. I’m too 

“Mr. Prelude surveyed me. ‘You never know 
what you can do till you try,’ he said. ‘Do you 
know anything of science?’ 



“ ‘Not very much/ I said. ‘But I’ve done some 
physiography and chemistry and a little geology. 
And read a lot.’ 

“ ‘You don’t want to know very much,’ said Mr. 
Prelude. ‘You’re better without it here. Makes 
you High-Brow. High-Brow goes to tens of thou¬ 
sands, but Crane & Newberry go to hundreds of 
thousands. Not that our brows aren’t rising some 
in this establishment. Educational and improving, 
we’re going to be. So far as is consistent with our 
profits. See that notice ,—We leadf All the same, 
Cheeseman,’ said Mr. Prelude, ‘the thing that has 
sold, the thing that sells and the thing that’s going 
to sell, is the magazine with a pretty girl on the 
cover—and the less costume the better. Consistent 
with decency. Now here—what’s your name?’ 

“ ‘Smith, Sir.’ 

“ ‘Smith. And here’s all these covers on the book¬ 
stall. And then I produce this. Which does he buy?’ 

“This was the cover of the summer number of 
Newberry’s Story Magazine, on which two young 
ladies in skin-tight bathing dresses disported them¬ 
selves on a sandy beach. 

“ ‘Smith goes for this,’ said Mr. Prelude trium¬ 

“I shook my head. 

“ ‘You mean to say that isn’t attractive?’ said 
Mr. Cheeseman, turning in his chair and pointing 
with his well-chewed pencil. 

“I reflected. 

“ ‘There’s never anything about them inside,’ I 

“‘Got you there, Prelude!’ said Mr. Cheeseman. 



“ ‘Not a bit. He bought six or seven before he 
found that out. And most of ’em forgot about it 
when they read inside.’ ” 

§ 10 

“I found my introduction to Thunderstone House 
far less terrifying than I had anticipated. It was 
gratifying to have come so near to what Mr. Cheese- 
man had thought about the magazine cover, and 
there were presently other very reassuring coinci¬ 
dences of the same sort. I was immediately inter¬ 
ested in the editorial and publishing work that was 
going on about me, and my mind took one of those 
forward strides that are characteristic of adolescence. 
I was still a boy when I left Mr. Humberg; I had 
not been with Crane & Newberry six weeks before 
I perceived that I was a capable and responsible 
young man. I began to form opinions rapidly, to 
write with confidence; even my handwriting sud¬ 
denly grew up from a careless or over-careful boyish 
scrawl to a consistent and characteristic script. I 
began to think about the clothes I was wearing and 
of the impression I made upon other people. 

“In quite a little time I was writing short contri¬ 
butions to some of our minor weeklies and monthlies 
and suggesting articles and ‘features’ as we called 
them to Mr. Cheeseman. The eighteen shillings a 
week at which I started went up in a series of jerks 
to three pounds, which was quite a big salary in 
those days for a youngster not yet eighteen. Fanny 
took the keenest interest in my work and displayed 
an extraordinary understanding of its conditions. 
She seemed to know all about Mr. Cheeseman and 


Mr. Prelude and the rest of my colleagues directly 
I mentioned them. 

"One day I was working in the room next to Mr. 
Cheeseman’s with another youngster called Wilkins 
at a rather odd little job. One of the authors our 
firm employed had written a long story for the Story 
Reader’s Paradise, and it had been set up by the 
printers and passed for press before it was discovered 
that in a careless moment she had given her chief 
villain the name of a very prominent lawyer who 
unhappily also had a country house in a village 
almost identical in name with the corresponding 
village in the story. The prominent lawyer might 
see fit to consider this use of his name as libellous 
and make trouble for us. So Wilkins and I were 
going through two sets of proofs, one to check the 
other, and we were changing the name of the promi¬ 
nent lawyer to an entirely different one whenever 
it occurred. To brighten the task we had made a 
game of it. Each one raced down his galley proof 
and called the name of ‘Reginald Flake’ whenever 
he found it and scored a point for every name he 
called first. I was some points up when I heard a 
voice in the passage that seemed oddly familiar to 
me. ‘They’re all spread out on my desk, sir, if you 
like to come into my room,’ I heard Mr. Cheeseman 

“ ‘Fay-nits,’ said Wilkins. ‘It’s the Sun.’ 

“I turned round as the door opened and saw Mr. 
Cheeseman holding the door open for a good-looking 
youngish man, with rather handsome regular fea¬ 
tures and a sort of bang of brown hair over his 
forehead. He wore a pair of very round large spec- 



tacles with glasses tinted a faint yellow colour. He 
met my eyes and an expression of partial recognition 
came into his and faded again. Either he recognised 
me or he recognised a resemblance in me. He fol¬ 
lowed Mr. Cheeseman across the room. Then he 
turned sharply. 

“ ‘Of course/ he said smiling and returning a step 
or two towards me. ‘You must be young Smith. 
How are you getting on here?’ 

“ ‘I’m working for Mr. Cheeseman mostly/ I said 
standing up. 

“He turned to Mr. Cheeseman. 

“‘Very satisfactory, sir. Quick, interested; he’ll 
do well here.’ 

“ ‘I’m glad to hear it—very glad. Everyone has 
a chance here and there’s no favours. No favours. 
The best man does the job. Glad to see you among 
the directors whenever you care to come up to us, 

“ ‘I’ll do my best, Sir.’ 

“He hesitated, smiled again in a very friendly way 
and went into Mr. Cheeseman’s room. . . . 

“ ‘Where are we?’ I said. ‘Middle of galley 32? 
Score, 22-29.’ 

“ ‘How d’you know ’imf’ asked Wilkins in a fierce 

“ ‘I don’t know him,’ I said, suddenly hot and 
flushed. ‘I’ve never seen him before.’ 

“ ‘Well, he knew you.’ 

“ ‘He’s heard about me.’ 

“ ‘Who from?’ 

“ ‘How the deuce should I know?’ I asked with 
needless heat. 



“ ‘Oh!’ said Wilkins and reflected. ‘But-’ 

“He glanced at my troubled face and said no more. 
“But at the game of ‘Reginald Flake’ he over¬ 
hauled me and beat me at the end of the book, 

§ 11 

“I concealed altogether from my mother the share 
that Fanny had had in getting me my new job and 
all the opportunities it carried with it in Thunder- 
stone House, and so it was possible for her to find 
some pride and satisfaction in my increasing pros¬ 
perity. I was presently able to double and then still 
further to increase my contribution to the household 
expenses, and I exchanged my attic, which was 
handed over to Prue for her very own, for the room 
which had once sheltered the old Moggeridges. It 
was rearranged as a bed-sitting room for me, and 
soon I had first one and then several shelves full of 
books and a writing-desk of my own. 

“And also I concealed from my mother, for there 
was no use in distressing her, the frequency of my 
visits to Fanny. We began to make little excursions 
together, for Fanny, I discovered, was often very 
lonely. Newberry was a very busy man, and often 
he could not come near her for ten days or a fort¬ 
night, and although she had some women friends, 
and classes and lectures, there were gaps often of 
several days when she would have had no one to 
speak to but the servant who came in daily to her, 
if it had not been for me. But all this companioning 
of Fanny I tried to hide from my mother, though 
now and then her suspicions stabbed my falsehoods. 



Ernie and Prue, however, were able to follow the 
calls of love unhampered by the family shame, and 
presently they were both engaged and his young- 
lady and her young man were brought to a Sunday 
tea-party in the drawing-room—through the kind 
permission of Mr. and Mrs. Milton who were, as 
usual, ‘away.’ Ernie’s Young Lady—I’ve completely 
forgotten her name—proved to be a well-dressed, 
self-possessed young woman with a vast knowledge 
of people in wdiat we used to call 'society’; she talked 
freely and fashionably, taking the larger share of 
the conversation, of Ascot and Monte Carlo and the 
Court. Prue’s Mr. Pettigrew was of a more serious 
quality, and of the things he said I remember now 
only that he expressed a firm conviction that Mes¬ 
sages from the Dead were Bound to Come in a few 
years’ time. He was a chiropodist and very well 
thought of in chiropodological circles.” 

“Stop!” cried Radiant. “What is this? You are 
talking nonsense, Sarnac. What is chiropodological 

“I thought you’d ask me that,” said Sarnac, smil¬ 
ing. “Chiropody was—corn-cutting.” 

“Corn-cutting—harvesting,” said Starlight. “But 
where do the hands and feet come in? There were 
machines then, were there not?” 

“No, this was a different sort of corn. Mr. Hum- 
berg’s shop was full of corn-salves and corn-cures. 
Corns were painful and tiresome callosities produced 
on people’s feet by the pressure of ill-fitting boots. 
We don’t know of such things nowadays, but they 
darkened scores of lives in Pimlico.” 

“But why did they wear ill-fitting boots?” de- 



manded Radiant. “Oh!—nevermind. Nevermind. 
I know. A mad world which made boots at hazard 
without looking at the feet that had to wear them! 
And wore boots that hurt it when no sane people 
would dream of wearing boots! Go on with your 

“Let me see,” said Sarnac. “I was talking of a 
tea-party, a family tea-party in the drawing-room— 
in which we talked of everything in the world but 
my sister Fanny. And quite a little while after 
that tea-party my mother fell ill and died. 

“It was a swift and sudden illness. She caught 
a cold and would not go to bed. When she did go 
to bed, she got up after one day of it, because she 
couldn’t bear to think of all that Prue might be 
doing or not doing in the house-work downstairs. 
And her cold turned to pneumonia, the same sort of 
inflammation that had carried off the Moggeridges, 
and she died in three days. 

“Now when the fever came upon her she changed 
suddenly from something white and hard and un¬ 
approachable to something flushed and pitiful. Her 
face grew smaller and younger looking, her eyes 
bright, and something came into them that reminded 
me of Fanny when Fanny was distressed. And all 
my habit of sullen resistance to my mother melted 
when I saw her struggling for breath on her tumbled 
pillow and realised that she might be near the end 
of all her hates and drudgeries. Matilda Good 
became again the old friend who had known her 
since she was a young woman, and they called each 
other 'Tilda’ and 'Marty’ instead of Matilda and 
Martha. Matilda for all her varicose veins was up 



and down stairs fifty times a day; and there was 
much sending out for expensive things, the more 
expensive the better, that Matilda thought my 
mother might ‘fancy.’ They stood appealingly 
untouched upon the table by her bedside. Once or 
twice towards the end my mother asked for me, and 
when I came in the evening and bent over her she 
whispered hoarsely, ‘’Arry boy—promise me! . . . 
Promise me! . . .’ 

“I sat down and took the hand she held out to me, 
and so holding to me, she dozed. 

“What she wanted me to promise she never said; 
and whether it was some last vow she wanted to 
extract from me that would separate me from Fanny 
for ever, or whether her thoughts about Fanny had 
changed under the shadow of death and she had 
some new message for her, I cannot imagine to this 
day. Perhaps she herself did not know what I had 
to promise; a dying desire for predominance moved 
her. Will stirred in her and faded again to nothing. 
‘Promise me!’ Fanny she never mentioned by name 
and we did not dare to bring my sister in to her. 
Ernest came and kissed her and knelt down by the 
bedside and suddenly, dreadfully wept aloud like 
the child he was and set us all weeping; he was her 
firstborn and her dearest, he had known her before 
her final embitterment, he had always been a dutiful 
son to her. 

“Presently she was lying there very straight and 
still, as hushed and still as my father’s shop on 
Sundays, and the traffics and struggles and angers 
of life had done with her for ever. Her face was 
now neither young nor old, a marble face of peace. 



All her peevish resentment was smoothed and wiped 
away. It had never occurred to me before that 
she had or had not good looks, but now I saw that 
Fanny’s fine regularity of feature came from her. 
She was like Fanny, like an immobile, unhumorous 

“I stood beside her still body oppressed by a grief 
too wide and deep for tears, an immense grief that 
was not so much for her as for all that distress of 
life she had embodied. For now I saw that there 
was not and there never had been anything hateful 
in her; I saw for the first time the devotion of her, 
the misguided passion for right, the mute, blunder¬ 
ing, tormented and tormenting love in her heart. 
Even her love of Fanny was a love capsized and 
inverted; her fallen daughter had been to her a 
detested changeling for the pretty clever little girl 
who was to have been a paragon of feminine virtue. 
Except for Ernest how bitterly and repeatedly had 
we children offended her rigid and implacable 
standards, Fanny and I openly and rebelliously and 
Prue by discovery! For Prue—I will not tell you 
the details of Matilda’s exposure—pilfered. 

“Long before we children began to thwart my 
mother there must have been a still more monstrous 
disappointment for her. What sort of dreams of 
manly piety and decorum had she wrapped about my 
poor, maundering, ramshackle, loose-limbed father 
when he and she walked out together in their Sunday 
clothes, making the best and more than the best 
of themselves? He must have been a tall, good- 
looking, young man then, and reassuringly apt with 
pious reflections. What shocks had he, gross, clumsy, 



wayward, ignorant and incompetent as the dear man 
was, inflicted upon her set and limited expectations? 

“And then think of my Uncle John Julip again, 
that wonderful and adored elder brother with the 
manners of a sporting baronet, who had slowly 
shrivelled down to the figure of a drunken thief! 
Everything had shrivelled for her,—poor soul! In 
our streets in those old days men were permitted 
to sell brightly coloured distended bladders to chil¬ 
dren, the most apt instruments for acute disappoint¬ 
ment you can imagine; and the life God had given 
my mother was very like one of these bladders. It 
had burst and shrivelled down to a limp and empty 
residue that nothing could ever restore. She had 
faced her declining days, prematurely wrinkled, 
weary, laborious and unloved except by one dutiful 
son. . . . 

“Yes, the thought of Ernest was a consolation to 
me. Surely his loyalty had meant happiness for her.” 

Sarnac paused. “I find it impossible,” he said, 
“to disentangle my thoughts as I stood by my 
mother’s death-bed from a thousand things that 
have come to me since about her. I have had to 
tell of her as an antagonist, as a hard, uncharitable 
soul. That was her role in my story. But she was 
indeed just the creature and victim of that disor¬ 
dered age which had turned her natural tenacity 
to a blind intolerance and wasted her moral passion 
upon ugly and barren ends. If Fanny and Ernest 
and I had shown any stoutness against the disad¬ 
vantages of our start in life, if we had won for our¬ 
selves any knowledge or respect, we inherited that 
much steadfastness from her; such honesty as we 



had was hers. If her moral harshness had over¬ 
shadowed and embittered our adolescence, her pas¬ 
sionate mothering had sheltered our childhood. Our 
father would have loved us, wondered at us and 
left us about. But early in her life, that fear, that 
terror-stricken hatred of sex that overshadowed the 
Christian centuries, that frantic resort to the sup¬ 
pressions, subjugations and disciplines of a stereo¬ 
typed marriage in its harshest form, a marriage as 
easy to step into and as hard to leave as a steel trap 
with its teeth hidden by the most elaborate secrecies 
and misrepresentations, had set its pitiless grip upon 
my mother’s imagination and blackened all ‘the 
happier impulses in life for her. She was ready, if 
necessary, to pass all her children through the fires 
of that Moloch, if by so doing their souls might be 
saved. She did it the more bitterly because she was 
doing it against the deeper undeveloped things in 
her own nature. 

“Such things, more dimly appreciated perhaps, 
passed through the mind of Harry Mortimer Smith, 
my former self, as he stood beside his dead mother. 
He was torn—I was torn—by a sense of irrational 
separation and by the haunting persuasion of lost 
opportunities. There were things I felt that I might 
have said, propitious moments I might have seized 
to make things better between us. I had differed 
from her so harshly; I might have been so much 
kinder to her and still have held my way. She lay 
there a feeble, little, old woman, thin, worn and 
prematurely aged. How often had I struck at her 
with all my rebel strength, blind to the fact that 
I could wound her as only a child can wound the 



mother who bore it. She had been darkened and 
I also had been darkened, and now—now it was all 
too late. The door had closed between us. And 
was closed for ever. For ever. . . 

§ 12 

“The year and a half that intervened between 
my mother’s death and the beginning of the First 
World War—the War that came before the Poison 
Gas War and the Great Desolation—were years of 
rapid growth for me, mental and physical alike. I 
remained with Matilda Good because I had come 
to love that clumsy, wise, friendly creature almost 
as if she was my second mother, but now I was 
prosperous enough to occupy the whole of the second 
floor and to have a sitting-room separate from my 
bedroom. I still came down to the underground 
breakfast-room for breakfast or supper or high tea 
because I liked talking with Matilda. Prue had 
married Mr. Pettigrew by that time, and in her 
stead two grey and sedulous women came in—they 
were sisters, one a spinster and the other the wife 
of a broken-down prize-fighter—to do the drudg¬ 
eries Prue and my mother had done. 

“My chief companion in those days was my sis¬ 
ter Fanny. Our childhood’s alliance was renewed 
and strengthened. Wg had a need for each other; 
we were able to help each other as no one else could 
help us. I found out very soon that Fanny’s life 
was divided into two very unequal parts; that she 
had hours and sometimes days of excitement and 
happiness with Newberry, who loved her greatly 
and gave her all the time he could steal away for 



her and introduced her to such friends as he could 
trust to respect her and keep their secret, and also 
she had long stretches of uneventful solitude in 
which she was terribly left to herself. My sister 
Fanny was plucky and loyal and devoted, but be¬ 
fore we two got together again I think she found 
those grey intervals of suspended animation dreary 
and dangerous and sometimes almost intolerable. 
Often she had nothing to live for at all, nothing 
bright and vital, but the almost daily note, a hasty 
word or so he scribbled to her. And the better he 
was, the worse it was for her. The fact that he was 
pleasant and delightful and deeply in love with her, 
the very brightness of being with him, made those 
great intervals seem darker and duller.” 

“Hadn’t she work?” asked Sunray. 

“And fellow workers, and other women?” asked 

“Not in her position. Not as an unmarried 
woman—of lowly origins—with a lover.” 

“But there were others in the same position? 
Surely there were many!” 

“A scattered class, a class made to be ashamed of 
itself. Newberry and Fanny were lovers, such 
lovers as we are to-day; they got through with it 
and at last, I believe, they married according to the 
custom of the time. But they were the exceptional 
ones, they knew what they wanted and had stout 
hearts. Most of these irregular unions succumbed 
to the boredom in between and to the temptations 
of separation. Forgetfulness and jealousy played 
havoc with these insecure couples. The girls in 
their phases of loneliness picked up with other men 



and the first lover suspected their infidelities and 
strayed away. I have a lot to tell you yet about 
jealousy in the old world; it was not regarded as 
an ugly thing but as a rather high-spirited thing. 
People let it go and were proud of it. And the 
majority of these irregular unions were not even 
love unions in the first place, they were vice unions, 
dishonest on either side. Drugs and drink crept 
very easily into lives divided between over-excite¬ 
ment and tedium and darkened by a general dis¬ 
approval. The defiant pose was the easiest pose. 
The unmarried lover was made a social outcast and 
driven towards other sorts of social outcasts, more 
evil and unhappy. ... You see perhaps now why 
my sister Fanny was rather alone and aloof, for all 
that she belonged to a numerous class. 

“I suppose,” said Sarnac, “that the object of that 
rigid legal marriage of the old world was to keep 
lovers together. In countless cases it kept the 
wrong people together and lovers apart. But then 
you must remember that in those days children 
were supposed to be providential accidents; they 
were indeed accidents of cohabitation and that 
altered all the conditions of the question. There 
were no proper schools for children, no sort of 
refuge if the parents parted and tore the home 
asunder. We are so secure; it is hard to imagine 
now the chancy insecurity of the ancient days. It 
is hard to imagine the dangers that hung about an 
unprotected child. In our world nowadays we all 
seem to get paired; sooner or later each finds a 
mate and marriage is a natural and necessary re¬ 
lationship instead of a compulsory device. All the 



priests of all the religions that have ever been in 
the world could not bind me to Sunray more firmly 
than I am bound to-day. Does one get a book and 
an altar to marry the axe to its handle? . . . 

“None of which does in the least degree affect 
the fact that my sister Fanny suffered dreadfully 
from loneliness before she rediscovered me. 

“She was full of curiosities and enterprise, and 
she took possession of my leisure to explore all 
sorts of shows and resorts in and about old London, 
museums, picture-galleries, parks, gardens and 
heaths, that I should otherwise never have visited. 
Indeed she might not have visited them either if I 
had not been available as her escort, because in that 
world of crazy suppressions, most of these places 
were haunted by furtive love-hunters and feeble¬ 
minded folk who might have been irritating and 
tiresome to a solitary girl so pretty as Fanny. 
They would have followed her about and accosted 
her when they got her alone, and thrust their dis¬ 
agreeable cravings between her and the beauty and 

“But together we went gaily to all sorts of inter¬ 
esting things. This old London I am describing to 
you had a large share of parks and gardens; there 
was a pleasing quaintness about all of them and 
much unpremeditated loveliness. There was a cer¬ 
tain Richmond Park, to which we often resorted, 
with many fine old trees and grassy spaces and 
wildernesses of bracken, that got very yellow and 
gay in autumn, and a quantity of deer. You might 
have been transported from this age to Richmond 
Park two thousand years ago, and still fancied 



yourself in the northland parks of to-day. The 
great trees, like nearly all trees in those days, were, 
it is true, infested with fungus and partly decayed, 
but Fanny and I never noticed that. They seemed 
great healthy trees to us. And there was a view 
from a hill-crest of the winding Thames, a very 
delightful view. And then there were the oddest 
old gardens and flower spaces at Kew. I remember 
a quite good rock-garden and glass-houses of flow¬ 
ers; the brightest flowers the old world imagined 
possible. And there were paths through a jungle 
of rhododendra, primitive small rhododendra, but 
bright coloured and a great delight to Fanny and 
me. There was a place where we had tea at little 
tables in the open air. In that frowsty old germ- 
saturated world with its dread of draughts and 
colds and coughs it gave one a bright sense of ad¬ 
venture to eat food in the open air. 

“We went to museums and picture-galleries and 
talked about what the pictures meant and we 
talked of a thousand things together. There comes 
back to me one conversation we had at a place 
called Hampton Court, a queer, old, red-brick 
palace with a great grape-vine under glass and an 
ancient garden beside the Thames. There were 
flower-beds full of half-wild herbaceous flowers, 
and we walked beside them under trees until we 
came to a low wall that looked upon the river, and 
we sat down on a seat and there, after a silence, 
suddenly Fanny, like one who has been pent up 
beyond endurance, began talking of love. 

“She began by asking questions about the girls 
I had met and the girls at Thunderstone House. 



I described one or two of them to her. My chief 
friend among them was Milly Kimpton from the 
counting-house; we had got to the pitch of taking 
teas together and such-like friendly acts. ‘That’s 
not love/ said Fanny the wise, ‘lending each other 
books. You don’t begin to know what love is yet, 

“ ‘But you will, Harry—you will. 

“ ‘Don’t you be too late about it, Harry. There’s 
nothing in life like loving someone, Harry. People 
don’t talk to you about it and lots of people don’t 
know what they are missing. It’s all the difference 
between being nothing or something. It’s all the 
difference between being dead or alive. When you 
are really loving someone you’re all right and noth¬ 
ing can harm you. And when you aren’t, nothing 
is right, everything is wrong. But love is a queer 
thing, Harry, and about as dreadful as it is dear. 
It gets wrong. Sometimes it all goes wrong and 
it’s awful; it slips from you somehow; it goes and 
you’re left mean and little—ever so mean!—and 
you can’t get back and it seems you hardly want 
to get back. You’re dead and you’re damned and 
done for, and then again it all comes back again 
like the sunrise—like being born afresh.’ 

“And then with a desperate shamelessness she 
began to talk of Newberry and how much she loved 
him. She told little irrelevant things about his 
‘ways.’ ‘He comes to me whenever he can,’ she 
said, and repeated this presently. ‘He’s all my life,’ 
she said. ‘You don’t know what he is to me. . . .’ 

“Then her constant dread of a separation crept 
up to the surface of her thoughts. 



“ ‘Perhaps,’ she said, ‘it will always go on like 
this. ... I don’t care if it does, I don’t care if 
I never marry him. I wouldn’t care—not if at last 
I’m thrown aside. I’d go through it all again and 
count myself lucky even if I knew for certain I was 
to be dropped and cast aside.’ 

“Queer Fanny! Her face was flushed and her 
eyes shining with tears. I asked myself what had 
been happening. 

“ ‘He’ll never throw me aside, Harry. He’ll 
never throw me aside. He can’t. He can’t. He’s 
half as old again as I am and yet he comes to me 

in his trouble. Once- Once he cried to me. 

Men, all of you, are so strong and yet so help¬ 
less. . . . 

“ ‘You’ve got to have a woman to come to. . . . 

“ ‘Just a little while ago- Well- He 

was ill. He was very ill. He has pain in his eyes 
and sometimes he’s afraid about them. This time, 
suddenly, he had frightful pains. And he thought 
he couldn’t see. He came straight to me, Harry. 
He called a cab and came to me, and he came feel¬ 
ing his way upstairs to me and fumbling at the 
door; and I nursed him in my darkened room until 
the pain had gone. He didn’t go home, Harry, 
where there were servants and nurses to be got and 
attendants and everything; he came to me. It was 
me he came to. Me! He’s my man. He knows 
I’d give my life for him. I would, Harry. I’d cut 
my body to pieces bit by bit, if it would make him 

“ ‘It wasn’t so much the pain he had, Harry, 
as the fear. He’s not the one to mind a bit of pain 



or be afraid of many things. But he was afraid 
and scared. He’d never been afraid before, but 
he was afraid of going blind—he was too afraid 
to go to the specialist. It was like a little child, 
Harry, and him so big and strong—afraid of the 
dark. He thought they’d get hold of him so that 
perhaps he’d not be able to come to me. He 
thought he wouldn’t be able to see his beloved 
magazines and papers any more. And the pain just 
turned the screw on him. He clung to me. 

“ Tt was me made him go. I took him there. 
He wouldn’t have gone if it hadn’t been for me. 
He’d have just let things drift on and not a soul 
in the world, for all his money and power, to mother 
him. And then he might really have gone blind 
if it hadn’t been taken in time. I pretended to be 
his secretary and I took him and waited in the 
waiting-room for him. I dreaded they’d hurt him. 
I was listening for something to happen all the 
time. I had to look at their old Graphics as if I 
didn’t care a rap what they were doing to him. And 
then he came out smiling with a green shade on 
and I had to stand up stiff and cool and wait to 
hear what he had to say. I was scared by that 
shade, Harry. Scared! I held my breath. I 
thought it had come. “It isn’t so bad as we 
fancied, Miss Smith,” he says—offhand like. “You 
kept the taxi? You’ll have to take my arm I’m 
afraid.” “Certainly sir,” I said, mimpsy-like. I 
was careful to be kind of awkward taking his arm. 
There were people there in the waiting-room and 
you never know. Acted respectful. Me!—that 
has had him in my arms a thousand times. 



“ 'But when we were in the taxi and safe he 
pushed up the shade and took me into his arms and 
he hugged me and he cried—he cried wet tears. 
And held me. Because he’d got me still and his 
sight still and the work he loves to do. Things 
would have to be done to his eyes but he’d keep 
his sight—and he has. There’s been no trouble 
now. Not for months.’ 

“She sat looking away from me over the shining 

“ ‘How could he ever leave me?’ she said. ‘After 
a time like that?’ 

“Stoutly she spoke, but even to my youthful eyes 
she seemed little and lonely, sitting there on the 
old red wall. 

“I thought of the busy bustling man with the 
big tortoise-shell glasses away from her, and of one 
or two things I had heard whispered about him. 
It seemed to me then that no men were good 
enough for the women in the world. 

“ ‘When he’s tired or in trouble/ said Fanny, 
sure and still, ‘he’ll always come back to me.’ ” 



§ 1 

‘‘And now,” said Sarnac, “comes a change of 
costume. You have been thinking of me, I sup¬ 
pose, as a gawky youth of seventeen or eighteen, 
dressed in those ill-fitting wholesale clothes we used 
to call ‘ready-mades/ That youth wore a white 
collar round his neck and a black jacket and dark 
grey trousers of a confused furtive patterning and 
his hat was a black hemisphere with a little brim, 
called a Bowler. Now he changes into another sort 
of ‘ready-mades,’ even more ill-fitting,—the khaki 
uniform of a young British soldier in the Great 
World War against Germany. In 1914 Anno 
Domini, a magic wand, the wand of political 
catastrophe, waved to and fro over Europe, and 
the aspect of that world changed, accumulation 
gave place to destruction and all the generation of 
young men I have described as being put together 
from such shops as those one saw in Cheapside, 
presently went into khaki and fell into ranks and 
tramped off to the lines of ditches and desolation 
that had extended themselves across Europe. It 
was a war of holes and barbed wire and bombs and 
big guns like no war that had ever happened before. 
It was a change of phase in the world muddle. It 




was like some liquid which has been growing hotter 
and hotter, suddenly beginning to boil and very 
swiftly boiling over. Or it was like a toboggan 
track in the mountains, when after a long easy, 
almost level run, one comes to a swift drop and a 
wild zig-zag of downward curves. It was the same 
old downward run at a dramatic point. 

“Change of costume there was and change of 
atmosphere. I can still recall the scared excite¬ 
ments of the August days when the war began and 
how incredulous we English were when we heard 
that our own little army was being driven back 
before the German hosts like a spluttering kitten 
pushed by a broom, and that the French lines were 
collapsing. Then came the rally of September. At 
the beginning we British youngsters had been ex¬ 
cited spectators, but as the tale of our army’s efforts 
and losses came home to us we crowded to the re¬ 
cruiting offices, by thousands and scores of thou¬ 
sands, until at last our volunteers could be counted 
by the million. I went with the crowd. 

“It may seem a curious thing to you that I lived 
through all the Great World War against Germany, 
that I was a soldier in it and fought and was 
wounded and went back and took part in the final 
offensive, that my brother Ernest became a ser¬ 
geant and won a medal for gallantry and was killed 
within a few weeks of the concluding Armistice, 
that all the circumstances of my life were revolu¬ 
tionised by the war and that nevertheless it does 
not come into the story of my life as a thing of im¬ 
portance in itself to that story. As I think of it 
now, I think of the Great World War as a sort of 



geographical or atmospheric fact, like living ten 
miles from your working place or being married in 
an April shower. One would have to travel the ten 
miles every day or put up an umbrella as one came 
out of church, but it wouldn’t touch what one was 
intimately or alter in any essential the living sub¬ 
stance of one’s life. Of course the World War 
killed and tortured millions of us, impoverished us 
all and dislocated the whole world. But that only 
meant that so many millions went out of life and 
that there was a fractional increase in everyone’s 
anxiety and disorder; it didn’t change the nature 
and passions, the ignorances and bad habits of 
thought of the millions who remained. The World 
War arose out of these ignorances and misconcep¬ 
tions and it did nothing to alter them. After it 
was all over the world was a good deal rattled and 
much shabbier than before, but it was still the same 
old mean and haphazard world, acquisitive, di¬ 
vided, cantingly patriotic, idiotically prolific, dirty, 
diseased, spiteful and conceited. It has taken two- 
score centuries of research and teaching, training, 
thought and work to make any great alteration in 

“I admit the outbreak of the World War had a 
really tremendous air of being an end and a begin¬ 
ning. There were great days in it at first, and 
for us British as much as for any people. We ap¬ 
prehended the thing in splendid terms. We thought 
quite honestly—I speak of the common people— 
that the Imperialisms of Central Europe were 
wholly wrong and that we were wholly right; hun¬ 
dreds of thousands of us gave ourselves gladly in 



the sincere belief that a new world was to be won 
by victory. That spirit was not confined to Britain, 
nor to either side in this war. I am convinced that 
the years 1914, 1915 and 1916 saw finer crops of 
brave and generous deeds and noble sacrifices, of 
heroic toil and heroic patience, than any years that 
ever came before in the whole history of mankind 
or than any of the years that followed for many 
centuries. The young people were wonderful; 
death and honour reaped gloriously among them. 
And then the inherent unsoundness of the issue be¬ 
gan to wear through and that false dawn faded out 
of men’s hearts. By the end of 1917 the whole 
world was a disillusioned world, with but one hope 
left, the idealism of the United States of America 
and the still untested greatness of President Wil¬ 
son. But of that and what it came to, you read 
about in the history books and I will not talk about 
it now. A God in that man’s position might have 
unified the world in the twentieth century and 
saved it centuries of tragic struggle. President 
Wilson was not a God. . . . 

“And I do not think I need tell you very much 
of the w T ar itself as I saw it. It was a strange phase 
in human experience and it was described and 
painted and photographed and put on record very 
completely. Most of us have read quite a lot about 
it—except of course Firefly. You know how human 
life concentrated for four whole years upon the 
trenches that stretched across Europe on either 
front of Germany. You know how thousands of 
miles of land were turned into wildernesses of mud- 
holes and wire. Nowadays of course nobody reads 



the books of the generals and admirals and poli¬ 
ticians of that time, and all the official war histories 
sleep the eternal sleep in the vaults of the great 
libraries, but probably you have all read one or two 
such human books as Enid Bagnold’s Diary with¬ 
out Dates or Cogswell’s Ermytage and the Curate 
or Barbusse’s Le Feu or Arthur Green’s Story of a 
Prisoner of War or that curious anthology, The 
War Stories of Private Thomas Atkins, and prob¬ 
ably you have seen photographs and films and also 
pictures painted by such men as Nevinson and 
Orpen and Muirhead Bone and Will Rothenstein. 
All of them, I can certify now, are very true books 
and pictures. They tell of desolation passing like 
the shadow of an eclipse across the human scene. 

“But the mind has the pow r er of reducing and 
effacing every sort of impression that drags pain 
with it. I spent great parts out of two years in 
that noxious, gun-pocked land of haste and hiding, 
and that time now seems less than many days of 
my peace-time life. I killed two men with the 
bayonet in a trench, and it remains as though it 
was done by someone else and had no significance 
for me at all. I remember much more clearly that 
I felt very sick when afterwards I found my sleeve 
saturated with blood and blood on my hand, and 
how I tried to get it off by rubbing my arm in the 
sand because there was no water to be got. In 
the trenches life was hideously uncomfortable and 
tedious and while it lasted I was, I know, inter¬ 
minably bored by the drag of the hours, but all 
those hours are concentrated now into a record of 
the fact. I remember the shock of the first shell 



that burst near me and how slowly the smoke and 
dust unfolded, and how there was a redness in the 
smoke and how for a time it blotted out the light. 
That shell burst in a field of yellow-flowering weeds 
and stubble against the sun, but I do not recall 
what preceded it nor what followed it; shell-bursts 
rattled me more and more as the war went on, but 
they left weaker and weaker pictures. 

"One of my most vivid memories of that time 
is the excitement of my first leave from the front, 
and how my party arrived at Victoria Station and 
were guided in a clattering throng to a sort of 
transport drain called the Underground Railway by 
elderly volunteers wearing brassards. I was still 
muddy from the trenches; there had been no time 
for a wash and a brush-up, and I was carrying my 
rifle and other gear; we crowded into a brightly 
lit first-class carriage in which were a number of 
people in evening dress who were going out to 
dinner and to the theatre. There could not have 
been a more vivid contrast if I had seen Firefly there 
in all her loveliness. There was one young man not 
much older than myself between two gorgeously 
dressed women. He had a little white bow under 
his pink chin and a silk neck-wrap, he had a black 
cloak with a cape and an opera hat. I suppose he 
was an invalid but he looked as fit as I. I felt a 
momentary impulse to say something humiliating 
to him. I don’t think I did. I do not remember 
that I did. But I looked at him and then at the 
brown stain on my sleeve and the wonder of life 
possessed me. 

“No—I said nothing. I was in a state of intense 



exhilaration. The other fellows were gay and in¬ 
clined to be noisy, one or two were a little drunk, 
but I was quietly exalted. I seemed to be hearing 
and seeing and perceiving with such an acuteness 
as I had never known before. Fanny I should see 
on the morrow, but that evening I hoped to see 
Hetty Marcus with whom I was in love. I was 
in love with her with an intensity that only soldier- 
boys who had been living in the mud of Flanders 
for half a year could understand.” 

§ 2 

“How,” asked Sarnac, “can I make you see 
Hetty Marcus, dark-eyed, warm-skinned, wayward 
and fragile, who brought me to love and death two 
thousand years ago? 

“In a way, she was like Sunray here. She was 
of her type. She had the same darkness in her eyes, 
the same still bearing. She was like Sunray’s hungry 
sister. With a touch of fire in her blood. 

“Yes—and she had those same stumpy little 
fingers. . . . Look at them! 

“I met her on those very Downs I used to walk 
over with my father when I was a boy, to steal the 
produce from Lord Bramble’s gardens. I had a 
short leave before I was drafted to France and I 
did not spend it in London with Matilda Good and 
Fanny as you may think I should have done, but 
I went with three other youngsters who had enough 
money to do so, to Cliffstone. I don’t know whether 
I can make it clear to you why I went to Cliffstone. 
I was excited at the thought of going into the actual 
warfare, I meant to do brave and wonderful things 



over there, but also I was terribly overshadowed 
by the thought that I might be killed. I did not 
think of wounds or suffering, I do not think I feared 
those things at all, but I had a profound dread and 
hatred of extinction before ever I had fully lived, 
before I had ever tasted many of the most alluring 
things in life. I had always promised myself love 
and great adventures with women, and I was 
passionately distressed at the possibility of being 
cheated of those intensities. All of us young inno¬ 
cents were in the same case. It was I who had 
thought of Cliffstone, near to our training camp, 
with its band and promenade and its flitting glanc¬ 
ing girls. There if anywhere, it seemed to me, we 
must snatch something from life before the great 
shells splashed us to pieces and the clay of Flanders 
devoured us. We sneaked off from our families 
with those fires of protesting romance in our brains 
and veins. 

“You cannot imagine how many millions of lads 
there Avere in Europe then, pitifully eager not to 
miss altogether the secret and magic experiences of 
love before they died. I cannot tell you of the 
pothouses and prostitutes that lay in wait for us 
or of the gaunt moonlight on the beach. I cannot 
tell you of temptation and ignorance and disease. 
It is too ugly to tell you; such things are passed 
and done with, and men suffer them no more. We 
groped in darkness where now men walk in the 
light. One of my mates had an ugly misadventure; 
all had ugly experiences and I escaped by chance 
rather than any merit of my own from those slovenly 
snares. I was for a moment fastidious and I recoiled. 



And I had not drunken as the others had, because 
some streak of pride in me had made me habitually 
wary with drink. 

“But I was in a storm of excitements and dis¬ 
tresses. I was slipping into the pit though I hated 
it, and to escape it I set myself to revive my memo¬ 
ries of the days when I was a boy. I went to Cherry 
Gardens to see the old home and then to my father’s 
grave—it was neat and pretty with Fanny’s money 
—and then I determined to walk over the Downs 
to recall, if I could, something of the wonder that 
I had felt when first I went over them to Chessing 
Hanger. And also, if you understand me, I felt 
love and romance would be there. I hadn’t aban¬ 
doned the quest that had brought me to Cliffstone; 
I had only jumped a foul ditch on my way. When 
I was a child I had supposed Heaven was over the 
Downs, and certainly the golden summer sunsets 
were. It seemed natural to turn my back on Cliff- 
stone and go up into the only really lovely country 
I had ever known, if I wanted to find romance. 

“And I found it. 

“I was thrilled but not a bit surprised when I 
saw Hetty appear over the sky-line of the hill and 
come right over the brow and stand with her hands 
behind her back and the sun shining on her hair, 
looking out across the woods and cornfields to Blythe 
and the distant marches and the sea. She had taken 
her hat off and was holding it behind her. She wore 
an ivory-coloured silk blouse very open at the neck 
and it was just as though you could see her body 
through the flimsy stuff. 

“She dropped into a sitting position, now looking 



at her world and now plucking at the little dwarfish 
flowers in the Downland turf. 

“I stood for a time agape at her. Then my 
whole being was filled with a tremulous resolve 
to talk to her. My path curved up the slope and 
carried me over the shoulder of the hill not very 
far from her. I followed it, stopping ever and 
again as if to look at the land and sea below T , until 
it brought me as near to her as it could, and then 
I left it and with a clumsy affectation of carelessness 
strolled up to the summit until I stood beside her 
and about six yards away. I pretended not to 
observe her. I clenched my hands to keep my self- 
control. She had become aw T are of me and she 
was quite motionless now, sitting up and looking 
at me, but she did not seem in the least dismayed. 
Your fine face she had, Sunray, and your dark eyes, 
and I have never known anyone, not even you, who 
could keep a face so still. Not rigid or hard or 
staring it was, but quietly, profoundly, still, like a 
face in some beautiful picture. 

“I was all a-tremble, my heart was beating fast 
but I kept my wits about me. 

“ ‘Was there ever a lovelier view?’ I said. T 
suppose that bit of blue there that looks like a raft 
where the water shines, I suppose that is Denge 

“She did not answer for what seemed a long 
time. She surveyed me with an unfathomable ex¬ 
pression. Then she spoke and as she spoke she 
smiled. ‘You know that is Denge Ness as well as 
I do.’ 

“I smiled at her smile. Shy pretences were not 



for her. I came a step or so nearer with a con¬ 
versational air. ‘I have known this view/ I said, 
‘since I was a boy of ten. But I did not know 
anyone else set any value upon it.’ 

“ ‘Nor 1/ she said. ‘I came to look at it perhaps 
for the last time/ she vouchsafed. ‘I’m going away/ 

“ ‘I’m going away too.’ 

“ ‘Over there?’ she asked, and nodded her head 
to where the land of France hung like a cloud in 
the sky. 

“ ‘In a week or so.’ 

“ ‘I’ll get to France too. But not so soon as a 
week or two. But I am going into the Women’s 
Auxiliary Army Corps and I know I shall get over 
there at last. I join up to-morrow. How can one 
stay at home with all you boys out there, get¬ 

“She was going to say getting ‘killed.’ But she 
caught the word back and finished it with, ‘Getting 
into all sorts of danger and trouble.’ 

“ ‘One has to go/ I said. 

“She looked at me with her head a little on one 
side. ‘Tell me/ she said. ‘Do you want to go?’ 

“ ‘Not a bit. I hate the whole monstrous busi¬ 
ness. But there’s no way out. The Germans have 
put it on us and we have to go through with it.’ 

“That was how we all saw it in England during 
the War. But I won’t stop now to argue what really 
caused a war that ended two thousand years ago. 
‘The Germans put it on us. I hate going. I wanted 
to go on with the work I was doing. Now every¬ 
thing is upset.’ 



“ 'Everything/ she said and thought for some 
moments. 'I hate going too/ she said. 

" 'It drags on week after week, month after 
month/ I complained. ‘The boredom of it! The 
drills, the salutes, the silly little officers! If only 
they would take us and raffle us and kill us and 
have done with it so that we could either die or 
go home and do something sensible! My life is 
being wasted. I have been in the machine a year— 
and I’ve only got- thus far on my way to France! 
When I see a German soldier at last I shall want 
to kiss him I shall be so glad. But either I shall 
kill him or he will kill me—and that will be the 
end of the story.’ 

" 'And yet one can’t keep out of it/ she said. 

“ ‘And there is something tremendous about it/ 
she went on. ‘Once or twice I have been up here 
when there were air-raids. I live quite close here. 
These air-raids get more and more frequent now¬ 
adays. I don’t know what they are coming to. 
You see the searchlights now, every night, waving 
about like the arms of a drunken man. All over 
the sky. But before that you hear the pheasants 
in the woods, clucking and crying. They always 
hear it first. Other birds take it up. They cry and 
twitter. And then far away the guns begin rum¬ 
bling. At first a little sound— “pud-pud,” then like 
the whoof of a hoarse dog. And then one gun after 
another picks it up as the raid comes nearer. Some¬ 
times you can catch the whirr of the engines of the 
Gothas. There’s a great gun behind the farm-house 
away there and you wait for that and when it fires 
it hits you on the chest. Hardly anything is to be 



seen except the searchlights. There’s a little flicker 
in the sky—and star shells. But the guns—riot. 
It’s mad but it’s immense. It takes you. Either 
you are wild with fright or you are wild with excite¬ 
ment. I can’t sleep. I walk about my room and 
long to be out. Twice I’ve gone out into the night, 
into the moonlight—with everything a-quiver. 
Gone for long walks. Once shrapnel fell in our 
orchard with a hiss like rain. It ripped the bark 
of the apple trees and tore off twigs and branches 
and killed a hedge-hog. I found the little wretch 
in the morning, nearly cut in two. Death hap¬ 
hazard! I don’t mind the death and the danger 
so much. But it’s the quiver in the world I can’t 
endure. Even in the daytime sometimes, you can’t 
quite hear them, but you can feel the guns, over 
beyond there. . . . 

“ 'Our old servant,’ she said, 'believes it is the 
end of the world.’ 

" ‘For us it may be,’ I said. 

"She made no answer. 

"I looked at her face and my imagination rioted. 

"I began to talk with a bare simplicity such as 
we rarely attained in that shy and entangled age. 
But my heart was beating fast. 'For years,’ I 
said, ‘I have dreamt of the love of a girl. It was 
to have been the crown of life. I have saved myself 
up for it. I have had a friend or so, but it wasn’t 
love. And now I am near to going. Out there. 
It is only a few days before I go over there—to 
whatever is waiting for me. And when it seems 
beyond hope I come upon someone. . . . Don’t 
think me mad, please. Don’t think I’m lying. I 



am in love with you. Indeed I am. You seem 
altogether beautiful to me. Your voice, your eyes 
—everything. I could worship you. . . .’ 

“I couldn’t say a word more for a moment or 
so. I rolled over on the turf and looked her in 
the face. ‘I’m sorry/ I said. Tm a silly young 
Tommy suddenly in love—oh! desperately in love.’ 

“Her grave face regarded me. She did not look 
frightened or disconcerted. Perhaps her heart beat 
faster than I thought. But her voice when she 
spoke was constrained. 

“ ‘Why are you talking like that? You’ve just 
met me. . . . How can you love me? It isn’t 
possible people should love like this.’ 

“ ‘I’ve seen you long enough-’ 

“I could not talk. I met her eyes. Hers dropped 
before mine. The warm colour mounted to her 
cheeks. She bit her lips. 

“ ‘You,’ she said in a low voice, ‘are just in love 
with love.’ 

“ ‘Anyhow, I am in love,’ I said. 

“She plucked a spray of minute flowers and forgot 
it in her hand. 

“ ‘This is your last day?’ she asked, and made 
my heart beat faster. 

“ ‘It may be my last altogether for this sort of 
thing. Who can tell? . . . For a long time any¬ 
how. Why should it hurt you to let me love you 
to-day? Why shouldn’t you be kind to me? Civil 
to me—anyhow. I don’t ask for so very much. If 
—suppose—we went for a walk together? Just a 
long walk. If we spent most of the day together? 
Somewhere we might get something to eat. . . .’ 



“She sat considering me gravely. 

“ ‘Suppose I did,’ she said as if to herself. ‘Sup¬ 
pose I did.’ 

“ ‘What harm could it do you?’ 

“ ‘What harm could it do?’ she repeated with 
her eyes on mine. 

“If I had been older and more experienced I 
might have known from her warm flushed face and 
her dark eyes that she too was in love with love 
that day, and that our encounter was as exciting 
for her as for me. Suddenly she smiled; she showed 
herself for an instant as ready as myself. Her 
constraint had vanished. 

“ ‘I’ll come,’ she decided, and rose with an effort¬ 
less ease to her feet, and then at my eager move¬ 
ment as I sprang up before her: ‘But you’ll have to 
be good, you know. It’s just a walk—and a talk. 
. . . Why shouldn’t we? ... If we keep away 
from the village.’ ” 

§ 3 

“It would seem the queerest story in the world 
if I told you how we two youngsters spent that day, 
we who were such strangers that we did not know 
each other’s names and yet who were already drawn 
so closely together. It was a day of kindly beauty 
and warmth and we rambled westward until we 
came to a ridge that dropped steeply to a silvery, 
tree-bordered canal, and along that ridge we went 
until we reached a village and a friendly inn, where 
there were biscuits and cheese and some apples to 
make a lunch upon. For a time a mood of shyness 
followed our first avowals, then Hetty talked of her 



home and of her place in the world. It was only 
after we had eaten together that we became easy 
and familiar with each other. It was only as the 
sun was sinking in the west and our day drew to 
its golden end that we embraced suddenly as we 
sat together on a felled tree in a wood, and that I 
learnt from her what a sweet and wonderful delight 
the kiss of love may be.” 

§ 4 

Sarnac paused. 

“It happened two thousand years ago but it seems 
to me that it happened just six years from now. 
Once more I am back in that wood among the 
long warm shadows of the evening and all my 
dreams and imaginations awake to reality with 
Hetty’s body in my arms and her lips to mine. I 
have been able to tell you my story hitherto with 
a sort of wonder and detachment, as though I 
showed it you through a telescope. But I have 
been telling you overmuch perhaps of Fanny and 
Matilda Good because I have had a sort of reluc¬ 
tance about Hetty. She is still so fresh in my mind 
that she seems as I name her to come even here 
and to be living still, a perplexity between Sunray, 
who is so like her and so unlike her, and myself. 
I love her again and hate her again as though I 
was still that assistant editor, that writer of rubbish, 
in lost and forgotten Thunderstone House in dead 
old London. . . . 

“And I can’t, describe things now,” said Sarnac, 
“as I have described them up to this. I seem no 
longer to look back into past things. My memories 



are living and suffering; they inflame and hurt. 
I loved Hetty; she was all the delight of love to 
me. I married her, I divorced her, I repented of 
the divorce and I was killed for her sake. 

“And it seems as if I was killed not a day 
ago. . . . 

“I married while I was in England before I was 
passed for active service again after my wound. I 
was wounded in the arm-” 

Sarnac stopped and felt his arm. Sunray looked 
sharply at it and ran her hand down it from shoulder 
to elbow as if to reassure herself. The others burst 
into laughter at her manifest anxiety and her ex¬ 
pression of relief, the guest-master being particularly 

“I was wounded nevertheless. I was a sitting-up 
case in the ambulance. I could tell you stories 
about the nurses and the hospital and how we had 
a panic about a submarine as we crossed to England. 
. . . I married Hetty before I went back because 
we were now altogether lovers and it was just pos¬ 
sible she might have a child. And moreover there 
was a business about allowances if I got killed that 
was an added inducement to marry. In those days 
of haphazard death for the young there was a world¬ 
wide fever of love-making and countless such 
snatched marriages. 

“She had never got to France as she had said 
she hoped to do. For most of the time she was 
driving a car for the Ministry of Supplies in London. 
We spent two days of wild endearment, the only 
honeymoon we could get, at her mother’s farm at 
Payton Links, a little hamlet near Chessing Hanger. 



(I do not think I have told you that she was the 
only daughter of a farmer and that Mrs. Marcus, 
her mother, was a widow.) Hetty had been a clever 
girl, an elementary school teacher and bookish and 
enterprising for a country place. She had never 
mentioned me to her mother until she had written 
to tell of her approaching marriage. 

“When her mother had driven us from the station 
to the farm and I had helped her to put away the 
pony, the old lady’s non-committal manner relaxed 
and she said, 'Well, it might have been worse. 
You’ve looks and fairish shoulders for one who’s 
town-bred. You can kiss me, my boy, though Smith 
is a poor exchange for Marcus, and I can’t see how 
anyone can ever expect to get a living for man and 
wife at a fancy trade like publishing. I’d hoped 
at first she meant a publican. But publishing she 
says it is. Whether you’re properly old enough for 
Hetty, Time will show.’ 

“Time did show very rapidly that I was not 
properly old enough for Hetty, though I resisted 
the demonstration with passionate vigour. 

“In this world of ours we are by comparison very 
simple and direct. In that old world we should have 
seemed shockingly simple and direct. It’s not only 
that they wrapped up and hid their bodies in all 
sorts of queer garments and wrappings but also 
that they wrapped up and distorted and hid their 
minds. And while we to-day have the same simple 
and clean ideas all over the world about sexual 
restraints and sexual freedoms, people in those days 
had the most various and complicated codes, half- 
hidden and half-confessed. And not merely half- 



hidden but imperfectly realised, subconscious rather 
than thought out and settled. Few of these codes 
respected the freedom of other people or set any 
bounds to the most extravagant developments of 
jealousy. And while Hetty’s thoughts about love 
and marriage had been nourished on a diet of coun¬ 
try-side folk and then of novels and poetry devoured 
with avidity and had had tremendous releases in the 
lax atmosphere of war-time London, I, in spite of 
my love for and faith in Fanny, had almost unwit¬ 
tingly adopted the rigid standards of my mother. 
As we used to say in those days, Hetty’s was a much 
more artistic temperament than mine. For my part 
I did not so much think as assume that the worship 
of a man for a woman gave place to mastery as 
soon as her love was won, that the problem of ab¬ 
solute fidelity for both lovers was to be facilitated 
on his side by an absolute submissiveness on hers. 
And about her, wherever she went, invisible but 
real, there had to be a sort of cloistered quality. 
It was implicit, moreover, that she had never 
thought of love before she met her predestined and 
triumphant lover. Ridiculous and impossible you 
will say! But Sunray here has read the old novels 
and she can witness that that was the code.” 

Sunray nodded. “That is the spirit of them,” 
she said. 

“Well, in fact, Hetty was not only half a year 
older than I but ages beyond me in the business of 
love. She was my teacher. While I had been 
reading about atoms and Darwin and exploration 
and socialism, she had been sucking the honey of 
sensuous passion from hints and half-hints in old 



romances and poems from Shakespeare and the old 
playwrights. And not only, I realise now, from 
books. She took me as one captures and tames 
an animal and made my senses and my imagination 
hers. Our honeymoon was magical and wonderful. 
She delighted in me and made me drunken with 
delights. And then we parted wonderfully with the 
taste of her salt tears on my lips, and I went off to 
the last five months of the War. 

“I can see her now, slender as a tall boy in her 
khaki breeches and driver’s uniform, waving to my 
train as it drew out of Chessing Hanger station. 

“She wrote adorable and whimsical love-letters 
that made me ache to be with her again, and just 
when we were forcing the great German barrier of 
the Hindenberg line, came one to tell me we were 
to have a child. She had not told me of it before, 
she said, because she had not been quite sure of it. 
Now she was sure. Would I love her still, now that 
she would be no longer slim and gracious? Love 
her still! I was filled with monstrous pride. 

“I wrote back to tell her how my job at Thunder- 
stone House was being saved for me, how we would 
certainly get a little house, a ‘dear little house,’ in 
some London suburb, how I would worship and 
cherish her. Her answer was at once tender and 
unusual. She said I was too good to her, far too 
good; she repeated with extraordinary passion that 
she loved me, had never loved and could never love 
anyone but me, that she hated my absence more 
than she could tell, and that I was to do everything 
I could, move heaven and earth to get my discharge 
and come home to her and be with her and never, 



never, never leave her again. She had never wanted 
my arms about her as she wanted them now. I 
read nothing between the lines of that outbreak. 
It seemed just a new mood amidst the variety of 
her moods. 

“Thunderstone House wanted me back as soon 
as possible, and the War had done much to increase 
the power and influence of all magazine publishers 
and newspaper proprietors. I got out of the army 
within three months of the Armistice and came back 
to a very soft and tender and submissive Hetty, a 
new Hetty more wonderful even than the old. She 
was evidently more passionately in love with me 
than ever. We took some furnished rooms in a 
part of London called Richmond, near the Thames 
and a great park, and we sought vainly for that 
bright little house in which our child was to be born. 
But there were no bright little houses available. 

“And slowly a dark shadow fell across the first 
brightness of our reunion. The seasonable days 
passed but Hetty’s child was not born. It was not 
born indeed until it was nearly two months too 
late for it to be my child.” 

§ 5 

“We are trained from earliest childhood in the 
world to be tolerant and understanding of others 
and to be wary and disciplined with our own way¬ 
ward impulses, we are given from the first a clear 
knowledge of our entangled nature. It will be hard 
for you to understand how harsh and how disin¬ 
genuous the old world was. You live in a world 
that is as we used to say ‘better bred.’ You will 



find it difficult to imagine the sudden storm of temp¬ 
tation and excitement and forgetfulness in Hetty’s 
newly aroused being that had betrayed her into 
disloyalty, and still more difficult will you find the 
tangle of fear and desperate dishonesty that held 
her silent from any plain speech with me after my 
return. But had she spoken instead of leaving it to 
me to suspect, discover and accuse, I doubt if she 
would have found any more mercy in me for her 
pitiful and abominable lapse. 

“I see now that from the day I returned to Hetty 
she was trying to tell me of her disaster and failing 
to find a possible way of doing so. But the vague 
intimations in her words and manner dropped like 
seeds into my mind and germinated there. She was 
passionately excited and made happy by my coming 
back; our first week together was the happiest week 
of my old-world life. Fanny came to see us once 
and we went and had a dinner at her flat, and some¬ 
thing had happened to her too, I knew not what, 
to make her very happy. Fanny liked Hetty. When 
she kissed me good night after her dinner, she held 
me and whispered: ‘She’s a dear. I thought Fd be 
jealous of your wife, Harry, but I love her.’ 

“Yes, we were very happy for that week. We 
walked along together back to our rooms instead of 
taking a taxi, for it was better for Hetty to walk. 
A happy week it was that stretched almost to a 
happy fortnight. And then the shadows of suspi¬ 
cion gathered and deepened. 

“It was in bed in the darkness of the night that 
I was at last moved to speak plainly to Hetty. I 
woke up and lay awake for a long time, very still 



and staring at my bleak realisation of what had 
happened to us. Then I turned over, sat up in bed 
and said, ‘Hetty. This child is not mine.’ 

“She answered at once. It was plain she too 
had been awake. She answered in a muffled voice 
as though her face lay against the pillow. ‘No.’ 

“ ‘You said, no?’ 

“She stirred, and her voice came clearer. 

“ ‘I said no. Oh Husbind-boy I wish I was dead! 
I wish to God I was dead.’ 

“I sat still and she said no more. We remained 
like two fear-stricken creatures in the jungle, mo¬ 
tionless, in an immense silence and darkness. 

“At last she moved. Her hand crept out towards 
me, seeking me, and at that advance I recoiled. I 
seemed to hang for a moment between two courses 
of action, and then I gave myself over to rage. 
‘You’d touch me!’ I cried, and got out of bed and 
began to walk about the room. 

“‘I knew it!’ I shouted. ‘I knew it! I felt it! 
And I have loved you! You cheat! You foul 
thing! You lying cheat!’ ” 

§ 6 

“I think I described to you earlier in the story how 
my family behaved when Fanny left us, how we all 
seemed to be acting and keeping up a noise of in¬ 
dignation as if we were afraid of some different and 
disturbing realisations coming through to us should 
that barrage of make-believe morality fail. And 
just as my father and my mother behaved in that 
downstairs kitchen in Cherry Gardens so now I be¬ 
haved in that desolating crisis between myself and 



Hetty. I stormed about the room, I hurled insults 
at her. I would not let the facts that she was a 
beaten and weeping thing, that she certainly loved 
me, and that her pain tortured me, prevail against 
my hard duty to my outraged pride. 

“I lit the gas, I don’t remember when, and the 
scene went on in that watery Victorian light. I 
began dressing, for never more was I to lie in bed 
with Hetty. I meant to dress and, having said my 
say, to go out of the house. So I had to be scornful 
and loudly indignant, but also I had to find my 
various garments, pull my shirt over my head and 
lace up my boots. So that there were interludes 
in the storm, when Hetty could say something that 
I had to hear. 

“ Tt all happened in an evening,’ she said. Tt 
isn’t as though I had planned to betray you. It 
was his last day before he left and he was wretched. 
It was the thought of you made me go with him. 
It was just kindness. There were two of our girls 
going to have dinner with their boys and they asked 
me to come and that was how I met him. Officers 
they were all three, and schoolfellows. Londoners. 
Three boys who were going over—just as you were. 
It seemed rotten not to make a party for them.’ 

“I was struggling with my collar and stud but 
I tried to achieve sarcasm. ‘I see,’ I said, ‘under 
the circumstances mere politeness dictated—what 
you did. . . . Oh, my God!’ 

“ ‘Listen how it happened, Harry. Don’t shout 
at me again for a minute. Afterwards he asked 
me to come to his rooms. He said the others were 
coming on. He seemed such a harmless sort!’ 



“ ‘Very!’ 

“ 'He seemed the sort who’d surely get killed. 
And I was sorry for him. He was fair like you. 
Fairer. And it seemed all different that night. 
And then he got hold of me and kissed me and I 
struggled, but I didn’t seem to have the strength 
to resist. I didn’t realise somehow.’ 

“ ‘That’s pretty evident. That I can believe.’ 

“ ‘You’ve got no pity, Harry. Perhaps it’s just. 
I suppose I ought to have seen the risk. But we 
aren’t all strong like you. Some of us are pulled 
this way and that. Some of us do the thing we 
hate. I did what I could. It was like waking-up 
to realise what had happened. He wanted me to 
stay with him. I ran out from his rooms. I’ve 
never seen him since. He’s written but I haven’t 

“ ‘He knew you were a soldier’s wife.’ 

“ ‘He’s rotten. He knew it. He planned it while 
we were at dinner. He prayed and promised and 
lied. He said he wanted just a kiss, just one kiss 
for kindness. He began with that kiss. I’d been 
drinking wine, and I’m not used to wine. Oh, 
Harry! Husbind-boy, if I could have died! But 
I’d kissed and played about with boys before I met 
you. It seemed so little—until it was too late.’ 

“ ‘And here we are!’ said I. 

“I came and sat down on the bed and stared at 
Hetty’s dishevelled distress. She was suddenly 
pitiful and pretty. ‘I suppose I ought to go and 
kill this swine,’ I said. ‘I feel more like killing 

“ ‘Kill me,’ she said. ‘I wish you would.’ 



“ ‘What’s his name? Where is he now?’ 

“ ‘He doesn’t matter a rap,’ said Hetty. ‘You 
may hang for me if you like, but you shan’t hang 
for a thing like that. I tell you he doesn’t matter. 
He’s a dirty accident. He happened.’ 

“ ‘You’re shielding him.’ 

“ ‘Him!’ she said. ‘I’m shielding you.’ 

“I stared at her. Again came a moment when 
I seemed to hang undecided at the parting of two 
courses, and again I decided to explode into rage. 
‘My God!’ I cried, and then louder and standing 
up, ‘My God!’ Then I ranted at her. ‘I suppose 
I’ve only got myself to blame for all this. What 
did I know of what you were before I met you? 
I guess I wasn’t the first and I guess he won’t be 
the last. What do names matter? I guess you 
thanked Heaven for a green dud when you met 
me.’ And so on. I paced about the room as I 

“She sat up on the bed, her hair disordered and 
her eyes tearful, regarding me with a still and 
mournful face. ‘Oh, Harry!’ she would say ever 
and again, or ‘Oh, Boy!’ while I let my clumsy 
fancy rove through a wilderness of coarse reproaches. 
Ever and again I would come up to her and stand 
over her. ‘Tell me his name,’ I would shout and 
she would shake her head. 

“At last I was dressed. I looked at my watch. 

“ ‘What are you going to do?’ she asked. 

“ ‘I don’t know. Go, I suppose. I can’t stay here. 
I should be sick. I shall get most of my things 
together and go. I’ll find a lodging somewhere. 



It’s nearly dawn. I’ll go before you need get up. 
Meanwhile I’ll sit in the other room. I can lie 
on the sofa for a bit.’ 

“ ‘But the fire’s not lit!’ she said, ‘and it’s cold. 
It’s not even laid. And you’ll need some coffee!’ 

“She stared at me with eyes full of solicitude. 

“And forthwith she shuffled out of bed and slipped 
her feet into her bedroom slippers and put on a gay 
dressing-gown that had been a great delight to us 
—ten days ago. She w T ent meekly by me, moving 
her poor heavy body rather wearily, and found some 
fire-lighters in a cupboard and knelt by the fire¬ 
place and began to rake out the ashes of the over¬ 
night fire. I made no movement to prevent her. 
I began to collect together various books and small 
possessions I intended to take with me. 

“She was only apprehending the situation very 
slowly. She turned to me in the middle of her 
fire-lighting. 'I suppose you’ll leave me a little 
money to go on with?’ she said. 

“That gave me a base opportunity. ‘I’ll leave 
you money all right,’ I sneered. ‘I suppose I’ve 
got to keep you until we’re free. Then it will be 
his job. Or the next man’s.’ 

“She occupied herself with the fire. She filled 
a kettle and put it ready. Then she sat down in 
an arm-chair by the hearth. Her face was white 
and drawn but she shed no tears. I went to the 
window and pulled up the blind and stared at the 
street outside with its street lamps still alight; 
everything was gaunt and bleak in the colourless 
cold horror of the earliest dawn. 

“ ‘I shall go to mother,’ she said, shivering and 



pulling her dressing-gown about her shoulders. ‘It 
will be dreadful for her to know what has happened. 
But she’s kind. She’ll be kinder than anyone. . . . 
I shall go to her.’ 

“ ‘You can do what you like/ I said. 

“‘Harry!’ she said. ‘I’ve never loved any man 

but you. If I could kill this child- If it would 

please you if I killed this child-’ 

“She spoke with white lips. ‘Yes. I tried all 
I knew. Some things I couldn’t bring myself to 
do. And now it’s a thing that’s alive. . . .’ 

“We stared at one another in silence for some 

“‘No!’ I said at last. ‘I can’t stand it. I can’t 
endure it. Nothing can alter it now. You tell a 
tale. How do I know? You’ve cheated once and 
you can cheat again. You gave yourself to that 
swine. If I live to a hundred I’ll never forgive that. 
You gave yourself. How do I know you didn’t 
tempt him? You gave. You can go. Go where you 
gave yourself! They’re things no decent man can 
forgive. Things that are dirty to forgive. He stole 
you and you let him steal you and he can have you. 

I wish- If you’d had the beginnings of a sense 

of honour you’d never have let me come back to 
you. To think of these last days here. And you—- 
you with this secret next your heart! The filthiness 
of it! You—you, whom I’ve loved.’ 

“I was weeping.” 

Sarnac paused and stared into the fire. “Yes,” 
he said, “I was weeping. And the tears I shed— 
it is wonderful—the tears I shed were tears of the 
purest self-pity. 



“And all the time I saw the thing from my own 
standpoint alone, blind to the answering tragedy in 
Hetty’s heart. And the most grotesque thing is that 
all the time she was getting me coffee and that when 
it was ready I drank her coffee! At the end she 
wanted to kiss me, to kiss me ‘good-bye,’ she said, 
and I rebuffed her and struck her when she came 
near me. I meant only to thrust her back but my 
hand clenched at the opportunity. ‘Harry!’ she 
whispered. She stood like a stunned thing watching 
me go, and then turned suddenly and swiftly and 
ran back to the bedroom. 

“I slammed the outer door and went downstairs 
into the empty morning Richmond streets; alto¬ 
gether empty of traffic they were, under the flush of 

“I carried my bag towards the railway station 
that would take me to London; my bag was heavy 
with the things I had brought away, and it dragged 
upon my arms, and I felt myself a tragically ill-used 
but honourably self-vindicated young man.” 

§ 7 

“Oh, poor little things!” cried Starlight. “Oh! 
poor, little, pitiful pitiless creatures! This story 
hurts me. I couldn’t endure it, if it were anything 
more than a dream. Why were they all so hard 
upon each other and so deaf to the sorrow in each 

“We knew no better. This world now has a tem¬ 
pered air. In this world we breathe mercy with our 
first fluttering gasp. We are so taught and trained 
to think of others that their pain is ours. But two 



thousand years ago men and women were half-way 
back to crude Nature. Our motives took us un¬ 
awares. We breathed infections. Our food was 
poisoned. Our passions were fevers. We were only 
beginning to learn the art of being human.” 

“But didn’t Fanny-?” began Firefly. 

“Yes,” said Willow; “didn’t Fanny, who was nat¬ 
urally so wise about love, didn’t she take you in 
hand and send you back to forgive and help your 
wretched Hetty?” 

“Fanny heard my version of our story first,” said 
Sarnac. “She never realised the true values of the 
business until it was too late to stop the divorce. 
When I told her that Hetty had lived a life of de¬ 
pravity in London while I was in the trenches, she 
heard me with amazement but never doubted my 

“ ‘And she seemed such a dear,’ said Fanny. ‘She 
seemed so in love with you. It’s wonderful how 
different women are! There’s women who seem to 
change into something else directly they get out of 
sight of you round a corner. I liked your Hetty, 
Harry. There was something sweet about her, be 
what she may. I never dreamt she’d deceive you 
and let you down. Fancy!—going about London 
picking up men! It’s just as though she’d done it 
to me. 

“Matilda Good too was wonderfully sympathetic. 
‘No woman goes wrong only just once,’ said Matilda. 
‘You’re right to end it.’ The Miltons were giving 
up her drawing-room floor, I could have it, if I cared 
to take it. I was only too glad to take it and return 
to my old home. 



“Hetty, I suppose, packed up her own belongings 
as well as she could. She went down from Rich¬ 
mond to her mother’s farm at Payton Links, and 
there it was her child was born. 

“Now I want to tell you,” said Sarnac, “what is, 
I believe, the most remarkable thing in all this story 
I am telling you. I do not remember in all that time 
right up to and including our divorce, that I felt 
any impulse of pity or kindliness, much less of love, 
towards Hetty. And yet in my dream I was very 
much the same sort of man as I am to-day. I was 
a man of the same type. But I was driven by a 
storm of amazed and outraged pride and sexual 
jealousy of the most frantic sort towards acts of 
spite that are almost inconceivable here and now. 
I was doing all I could to divorce Hetty in such a 
way as to force her into marriage with Sumner— 
for that was the man’s name—because I had learnt 
that he was a hopelessly bad character and because 
I believed he would make her miserable and mar 
her life altogether. I wanted to do that to punish 
her, to fill her with bitter regrets for her treatment 
of me. But at the same time it drove me to the 
verge of madness to think that he should ever possess 
her again. If my wishes could have been given 
creative force, Hetty would have gone to Sumner 
disfigured and diseased. They would have come 
together again amidst circumstances of horrible 

“Sarnac!” cried Sunray, “that you should even 
dream such things!” 

“Dream! It is as men were. It is as they are, 
except for the education and the free happiness 



that release us. For we are not fourscore genera¬ 
tions from the Age of Confusion, and that was but 
a few thousands more from the hairy ape-men who 
bayed the moon in the primeval forests of Europe. 
Then it was the Old Man in lust and anger ruled 
his herd of women and children and begot us all. 
And in the Age of Confusion after the Great Wars 
man was, and he still is, the child of that hairy Old 
Ape-Man. Don’t I shave myself daily? And don’t 
we educate and legislate with our utmost skill and 
science to keep the old beast within bounds? But 
our schools in the days of Harry Mortimer Smith 
were still half-way back to the cave; our science was 
only beginning. We had no sexual education at 
all, only concealments and repressions. Our code 
was still the code of jealousy—thinly disguised. 
The pride and self-respect of a man was still bound 
up with the animal possession of women—the pride 
and self-respect of most women was by a sort of 
reflection bound up with the animal possession of a 
man. We felt that this possession was the keystone 
of life. Any failure in this central business involved 
a monstrous abasement, and against that our poor 
souls sought blindly for the most extravagant con¬ 
solations. We hid things, we perverted and misrep¬ 
resented things, we evaded the issue. Man is a 
creature which under nearly every sort of stress 
releases hate and malign action, and we were then 
still subjected to the extremest stresses. 

“But I will not go on apologising for Harry Mor¬ 
timer Smith. He was what the world made him 
and so are we. And in my dream I went about that 
old world, doing my work, controlling my outward 


behaviour and spending all the force of my wounded 
love for Hetty in scheming for her misery. 

“And one thing in particular was of immense 
importance to my tormented being. It was that I 
should get another lover quickly, that I should dispel 
the magic of Hetty’s embraces, lay the haunting 
ghost of my desire for her. I had to persuade myself 
that I had never really loved her and replace her in 
my heart by someone I could persuade myself was 
my own true love. 

“So I sought the company of Milly Kimpton 
again. We had been close companions before the 
War, and it was not difficult to persuade myself that 
I had always been a little in love with her. Always 
she had been more than a little in love with me. I 
told her my story of my marriage and she was hurt 
for my sake and indignant beyond means with the 
Hetty I presented to her. 

“She married me within a week of the completion 
of my divorce.” 

§ 8 

“Milly was faithful and Milly was kind; she was 
a cooling refuge from the heat and distresses of 
my passion. She had a broad, candid face that 
never looked either angry or miserable; she held 
her countenance high, smiling towards heaven with 
a pleasant confidence and self-satisfaction; she was 
very fair and she was broad-shouldered for a woman. 
She was tender but not passionate; she was intelli¬ 
gently interested in things but without much whim 
or humour. She was nearly a year and a half older 
than I. She had, as people used to say, ‘taken a 



great fancy’ to me when first I came into the firm, 
a crude and inexperienced youngster. She had seen 
me rise very rapidly to Mr. Cheeseman’s position 
on the editorial staff—he had been transferred to 
the printing side—and at times she had helped me 
greatly. We were both popular in Thunderstone 
House, and when we married there was a farewell 
dinner to Milly, who gave up her position then in 
the counting-house; there were speeches and a won¬ 
derful wedding-present of dinner-knives and silver 
forks and spoons in a brass-bound chest of oak with 
a flattering inscription on a silver plate. There had 
been a good deal of sympathy with Milly in Thun¬ 
derstone House, especially among the girls, and a 
good deal of indignation at me when my first mar¬ 
riage occurred, and my belated recognition of my 
true destiny was considered a very romantic and 
satisfactory end to the story. 

“We secured a convenient little house in a row 
of stucco houses all built together to have one archi¬ 
tectural effect, called Chester Terrace, close to one 
of the inner parks of London known as Regent’s 
Park. Milly, I discovered, had a little fortune of 
nearly two thousand pounds, and so she was able to 
furnish this house very prettily according to current 
taste, and in this house in due course she bore me a 
son. I rejoiced very greatly and conspicuously over 
this youngster’s arrival. I think you will under¬ 
stand how essential it was to my obsession for 
defeating and obliterating Hetty that Milly should 
bear me a child. 

“I worked very hard during that first year of 
married life and on the whole I was happy. But it 



was not a very rich nor a very deep sort of happiness. 
It was a happiness made up of rather hard and 
rather superficial satisfactions. In a sense I loved 
Milly very dearly; her value was above rubies, she 
was honest and sweet and complaisant. She liked 
me enormously, she was made happy by my atten¬ 
tions; she helped me, watched for my comfort, 
rejoiced at the freshness and vigour of my work. 
Yet we did not talk very freely and easily together. 
I could not let my mind run on before her; I had 
to shape what I said to her feelings and standards, 
and they were very different feelings and standards 
from my own. She was everything a wife should 
be except in one matter; she was not for me that 
particular dear companion for whom the heart of 
every human being craves, that dear companion with 
whom you are happy and free and safe. That dear 
companionship I had met—and I had thrust it from 
me. Does it come twice in a life to anyone?” 

“How should I know?” said Sunray. 

“We know better than to reject it,” said Radiant. 

“Perhaps after many years,” said Willow, answer¬ 
ing Sarnac’s question, “after one has healed and 
grown and changed.” 

“Milly and I were close friends indeed, but we 
were never dear companions. I had told Hetty 
about my sister Fanny on the evening of our first 
day together when we walked over the hills, she was 
instantly sure that she would love Fanny, Fanny had 
seemed very brave and romantic to Hetty’s imagina¬ 
tion; but I did not tell Milly of Fanny until close 
upon our marriage. You will say that it was not 
Milly’s fault that I was shy with her on Fanny’s 



account, but assuredly it was a fault in our relation¬ 
ship. And it was clear that Milly accepted Fanny 
on my account and refrained from too searching a 
commentary because of me. Milly believed pro¬ 
foundly in the institution of marriage and in the 
obligation of an unlimited chastity upon women. 
Tt is a pity she cannot marry this man,’ said Milly, 
anticipating perplexities. ‘It must make everything 
so inconvenient for her—and everyone who knows 
her. It must be so difficult to introduce her to 

“ ‘You needn’t do that,’ I said. 

“ ‘My people are old-fashioned.’ 

“ ‘They needn’t know,’ I said. 

“ ‘That would be the easier way for me, Harry.’ 

“I found my own declarations of affection for 
Fanny considerably chilled by the effort Milly made 
to be generous in the matter. 

“I found it still more difficult to tell her that 
Fanny’s lover was Newberry. 

“ ‘Then is that how you got into Thunderstone 
House?’ asked Milly when at last I got to that 

“ ‘It’s how I got my chance there,’ I admitted. 

“ ‘I didn’t think it was like that. I thought you’d 
made your way in.’ 

“ ‘I’ve made my way up. I’ve never been 

“ ‘Yes—but- Do you think people know, 

Harry? They’d say all sorts of things.’ 

“You perceive that Milly was not a very clever 
woman and also that she was very jealous of my 



honour. T don’t think anyone knows who matters/ 
I said. ‘Neither I nor Fanny advertise.’ 

“But it was clear Milly did not like the situation. 
She would have much preferred a world without 
sister Fanny. She had no curiosity to see this sister 
that I loved so dearly or to find any good in her. 
On various small but quite valid scores she put off 
going to see her for a whole week. And always I 
had to remind her of Fanny and speak of Fanny first 
before Fanny could be talked about. In all other 
matters Milly was charming and delightful to me, 
but as far as she could contrive it she banished 
Fanny from our world. She could not see how 
much of my affection went also into banishment. 

“Their meeting when at last it came about was 
bright rather than warm. An invisible atherma- 
nous screen had fallen not only between Milly and 
Fanny but between Fanny and myself. Milly had 
come, resolved to be generous and agreeable in spite 
of Fanny’s disadvantageous status, and I think she 
was a little disconcerted by Fanny’s dress and fur¬ 
niture, for Milly was always very sensitive to furni¬ 
ture and her sensitiveness had been enhanced by 
our own efforts to equip a delightful home on a 
sufficient but not too extravagant expenditure. I 
had always thought Fanny’s furnishings very pretty, 
but it had never occurred to me that they were, as 
Milly put it, ‘dreadfully good.’ But there was a red 
lacquer cabinet that Milly said afterwards might be 
worth as much as a hundred pounds, and she added 
one of those sentences that came upon one like an 
unexpected thread of gossamer upon the face: ‘It 
doesn’t seem right somehow.’ 



“Fanny’s simple dress I gathered was far too good 
also. Simple dresses were the costliest in those days 
of abundant material and insufficient skill. 

“But these were subsequent revelations, and at 
the time I did not understand why there should 
be an obscure undertone of resentment in Milly’s 
manner, nor why Fanny was displaying a sort of 
stiff sweetness quite foreign to my impression of 

“ ‘It’s wonderful to meet you at last,’ said Fanny. 
‘He’s talked about you for years. I can remember 
once long before—long before the War—and every¬ 
thing—at Hampton Court. I can remember sitting 
on those seats by the river and his talking about 

“ ‘I remember that,’ I said, though it wasn’t the 
part about Milly that had stuck in my memory. 

“ ‘We used to go about together no end in those 
days,’ said Fanny. ‘He was the dearest of brothers.’ 

“ ‘I hope he’ll still be,’ said Milly very kindly. 

“ ‘A son’s a son till he gets a wife,’ said Fanny, 
quoting an old-woman’s proverb. 

“ ‘You mustn’t say that,’ said Milly. ‘I hope 
you’ll come to see us—quite often.’ 

“ ‘I’d love to come,’ said Fanny. ‘You’re lucky 
to get a house so easily, these days.’ 

“ ‘It isn’t quite ready yet,’ said Milly. ‘But as 
soon as ever it is we must find some day when 
you are free.’ 

“ ‘I’m often free,’ said Fanny. 

“ ‘We’ll fix a clay,’ said Milly, obviously quite 
resolute to ensure that we had no unexpected calls 
from Fanny when other people might be about. 



“ Tt’s nice you have been in the counting-house 
and understanding all about his work/ said Fanny. 

“ ‘My people didn’t like my going into business 
at all/ said Milly. ‘But it’s lucky I did.’ 

“ ‘Lucky for Harry/ said Fanny. ‘Are your— 
people London people?’ 

“ ‘Dorset/ said Milly. ‘They didn’t like my com¬ 
ing to London. They’re just a little bit churchy 
and old-fashioned, you know. But it’s college or 
business, I said, and you don’t find me staying at 
home to dust and put out the flowers. One has to 
take a firm line with one’s people at times. Didn’t 
you find that so? There was a convenient aunt in 
Bedford Park to secure the proprieties and head off 
the otherwise inevitable latch-key, and it was busi¬ 
ness instead of college because my best uncle, Uncle 
Hereward—he’s the Vicar of Peddlebourne—objects 
to the higher education of women. And there was 
also a question of finance.’ 

“ ‘It must be interesting for Harry to meet your 
people,’ said Fanny. 

“ ‘He’s completely conquered Aunt Rachel/ said 
Milly. ‘Though she started hostile. Naturally, as 
I’m about the only Ivimpton of three generations 
they pitched their expectations high. They’d like 
me to have a husband with a pedigree a yard long.’ 

“I felt Milly was rather over-emphasising the 
county family side of the Kimptons—her father was 
a veterinary surgeon near Wimborne—-but I did not 
appreciate the qualities in Fanny’s bearing and fur¬ 
niture that were putting Milly into this self-assertive 

“They went on to talk with a certain flavour of 




unreality of the hygienic and social advantages of 
Regent’s Park. ‘It’s easy to get to for one’s friends/ 
said Milly. ‘And quite a lot of interesting people, 
actors and critics and writers and all that sort of 
people, live round and about there. Of course 
Harry will want to know more and more of the 
artistic and literary world now. I expect we’ll have 
to have a Day for them and give them tea and 
sandwiches. It’s a bore, but it’s necessary, you 
know. Harry’s got to know people/ 

“She smiled at me between pride and patronage. 

“ ‘Harry’s going up in the world,’ said my sister. 

“ ‘That’s what makes it all so wonderful,’ said 
Milly. ‘He’s a wonderful brother for you/ 

“She began to praise the beauty of Fanny’s flat, 
and Fanny offered to show her all over it. They 
were away some time and I went to the window, 
wishing stupidly after the manner of a man that 
they could somehow contrive to be a little different 
and a little warmer with each other. Didn’t they 
both love me and shouldn’t that be a bond of sister¬ 
hood between them? 

“Then came tea, one of Fanny’s wonderful teas, 
but I was no longer the indiscriminate devourer of 
teas that I had been. Milly praised it all like a 
visiting duchess. 

“ ‘Well,’ said Milly at last with the air of one 
who has many appointments, ‘it’s time to go I’m 
afraid. . . .’ 

“I had been watching Fanny very closely through¬ 
out this visit and contrasting her guarded and 
polished civilities with the natural warmth of her 



reception of Hetty, half a year before. I felt I 
could not wait for another occasion before I had 
a word or two with her. So I kissed her good-bye— 
even her kiss had changed—and she and Milly 
hesitated and kissed, and I went down past the 
landing with Milly and heard the door close above. 
Tve left my gloves/ I said suddenly. ‘You go on 
down. I won’t be a moment.’ And I darted back 

“Fanny did not come to the door immediately. 

“ ‘What is it, Harry?’ she said, when she appeared. 

“‘Gloves!’ said I. ‘No! Here they are in my 
pocket. Silly of me! . . . You do like her, Fanny? 
You think she’s all right, don’t you? She’s a little 
shy with you, but she’s a dear.’ 

“Fanny looked at me. I thought her eyes were 
hard. ‘She’s all right,’ she said. ‘Quite all right. 
You’ll never have to divorce her, Harry.’ 

“ ‘I didn’t know. I want you to—like her. I 
thought—you didn’t seem quite warm.’ 

“ ‘Silly old Harry! ’ said Fanny, with a sudden 
return to her old manner. And she took me and 
kissed me like a loving sister again. 

“I went down two steps from the door and turned. 

“ ‘I’d hate it/ I said, ‘if you didn’t think she was 
all right.’ 

“ ‘She’s all right,’ said Fanny. ‘And it’s Good 

Luck to you, Harry. It’s- You see it’s about 

Good-Bye for me. I shan’t be seeing very much 
of you now with that clever wife of yours to take 
you about. Who’s so well- connected. But Good 
Luck, old Brudder! Oh! always Good Luck!’ 



“Her eyes were brimming with tears. 

“ ‘God send you are happy, Harry dear—after 
your fashion. It’s—it’s different. . . .’ 

“She stopped short. She was weeping. 

“She banged her door upon me, and I stood 
puzzled for a moment and then went down to Milly.” 



§ 1 

“In the two years that followed I learnt to love 
and trust my stiff-spirited wife more and more. 
She was very brave in a conscious and deliberate 
way, very clear-headed, very honest. I saw her 
fight, and it was not an easy fight, to bring our son 
into the world, and that sort of crisis was a seal 
between man and woman in those days even as it 
is to-day. If she never got to any just intuitions 
about my thoughts and feelings I did presently 
arrive at a fairly clear sense of hers. I could feel 
for her ambitions and humiliations. She worked 
hard to make our home bright and efficient. She had 
a taste for sound and ‘solid’ things and temperate 
harmonies. In that old world, encumbered with 
possessions and with an extreme household auton¬ 
omy, servants were a very important matter indeed 
and she managed ours with just that measured kind¬ 
liness and just that avoidance of intimacy that was 
needed by the social traditions of the time. She 
had always been intelligently interested in the 
internal politics of Thunderstone House and she 
showed the keenest desire for my success there. Til 
see you a director before ten years,’ she said. And 
I worked very hard indeed and not merely for 




ambition’s sake. I really understood and believed 
in the educational importance of that great slovenly 
business. Newberry came to recognise in me a 
response to his own ideas. He would consult me 
about new schemes and the modification of old 
procedure. He relied on me more and more and 
talked with me more and more frequently. And 
it is a queer thing to recall that by a sort of con¬ 
vention between us we never mentioned or alluded 
to my sister Fanny in any of our discussions. 

“I changed a good deal during my first two and 
a half years of married life. I matured and hard¬ 
ened. I became a man of the world. I was put 
up for and elected a member of a good club and 
developed my gift for talk. I met a widening 
variety of people, and some of them were quite 
distinguished people, and I found they did not 
overawe me. I possessed a gift for caustic com¬ 
mentary that gained me some reputation as a wit, 
and I felt a growing interest in the showy and sterile 
game of party politics. My ambitions grew. I was 
active; I was self-satisfied. I had largely forgotten 
my intense sexual humiliation. But I was not a 
very happy man. My life was like a handsome, 
well-appointed room with a north light; the bowls 
were full of cut-flowers but the sunlight never 
came in.” 

§ 2 

“For two years and a half I saw nothing of Hetty 
and it was not my fault that I ever saw her again. 
I did everything I could to eradicate her from my 
existence. I destroyed her photographs and every 



little vestige of her that might distress me by its 
memories. If I caught myself in a reverie in which 
she figured I forced my attention to other things. 
Sometimes when I made a new success I had a flash 
of desire that she should witness it. Ugly, I agree, 
but is it not what we still are—except for civilisa¬ 
tion? She came back sometimes in dreams, but 
they were anger-soaked dreams. And I cultivated 
my pride and love for Milly. With increasing 
prosperity Milly’s skill in dressing herself developed; 
she became a very handsome, effective woman; she 
gave herself to me with a smiling sense of temperate 
and acceptable giving. 

“In those days we had not learnt to analyse our 
motives. We were much less observant of ourselves 
than men and women are to-day. I had set my 
mind upon loving Milly and I did not realise that 
the essential thing in loving is a thing beyond our 
wills. Fanny and Hetty I loved by nature and 
necessity, but my days were now far too completely 
apportioned between work and Milly for much com¬ 
panionship with Fanny to survive, and Hetty in 
my heart was like one of those poor shrivelled corpses 
of offending monks they walled up in the monas¬ 
teries during the Age of Christendom in Europe. 
But I found now a curious liveliness in my interest 
in women in general. I did not ask what these 
wanderings of attention signified; I was ashamed 
of them but I gave way to them. Even when I 
was in Milly’s company I would look at other women 
and find a vague excitement if the intent of my 
glances was returned. 

“And I began to read novels in a new spirit, 



though I did not know why I was taking to novels; 
I was reading them, I see now, for the sake of the 
women 1 found in them. I do not know, Sunray, 
whether you realise how much the novels and plays 
of those days served to give men and women love- 
phantoms with whom they made imaginative excur¬ 
sions. We successful and respectable ones went 
our dignified and satisfied ways, assuaging the thin 
protests of our starved possibilities with such un¬ 
substantial refreshment. 

“But it was because of that wandering eye for 
women that I encountered Hetty again. It was in 
the springtime that I came upon her, either in 
March or very early April, in some public gardens 
quite near to Chester Terrace. These gardens were 
not in my direct way from the underground railway 
station, which took me to and fro between home 
and business and my house, but I was in no hurry 
for Milly’s tea-party and the warmth and sunlight 
drew- me to this place of blossom and budding green. 
They were w^hat we should call spring gardens now¬ 
adays, small but cleverly laid out for display with 
an abundant use of daffodil, narcissus, hyacinth, 
almond-blossom and the like, with hard paths and 
seats placed to command happy patches of colour. 
On one of these seats a woman was sitting alone 
with her back to me looking at a patch of scyllas. 
I was struck by the loveliness of her careless pose. 
Such discoveries of the dear beauty that hides in 
the world wrnuld stir me like a challenge and then 
stab me with pain. She was dressed very poorly 
and simply, but her dingy clothing was no more 


than the smoked glass one uses to see the brightness 
of the sun. 

“I slackened my pace as I went past and glanced 
back to see her face. And I saw the still face of 
Hetty, very grave and sorrowful, Hetty, no longer 
a girl but a woman, looking at the flowers and quite 
unheedful of my regard. 

“Something greater than pride or jealousy seized 
me then. I went a few steps farther and stopped 
and turned, as though no other thing was possible. 

“At that she became aware of me. She looked 
up, doubted, and recognised me. 

“She watched me with that motionless face of 
hers as I came and sat down beside her. I spoke 
in a voice of astonishment on the edge of a storm 
of emotion. ‘Hetty/ I said, T couldn’t go past you!’ 

“She did not answer immediately. ‘Are you-?’ 

she began and stopped. ‘I suppose we were bound 
to meet again,’ she said, ‘sooner or later. You look 
as if you had grown, Harry. You look well and 

“ ‘Do you live in this part of London?’ I asked. 

“ ‘Camden Town just now,’ she said. ‘We move 

“ ‘You married—Sumner?’ 

“ ‘What did you expect me to do? What else 
was there to do? I’ve drunk my cup to the dregs, 

“ ‘But- You had the child?’ 

“ ‘It died—it died all right. Poor little mite. 
And my mother died a year ago.’ 

“ ‘Well, you’ve got Sumner.’ 

“ ‘I’ve got Sumner.’ 



“At any time before that meeting I should have 
exulted over the death of Sumner’s child, but in 
the presence of Hetty’s misery that old hatred would 
not come back for its gratification. I was looking 
at her face which was so familiar and so changed, 
and it was as if 1 woke up again to love for her after 
two years and a half of insensibility. What a beaten 
and unhappy thing she was—she whom I had loved 
and hated sc bitterly, 

“ Tt seems a long way back now to Kent, Harry 
—and mother’s farm,’ she said. 

“ 'You’ve parted with it?’ 

“ 'Farm and furniture—and mostly it’s gone. 
Sumner bets. He’s betted most of it away. It’s 
hard, you see, to find a job but easy to fancy a 
winner. Which doesn’t win. . . .’ 

“ 'My father used to do that,’ I said. ‘I’d like 
to shoot every race-horse in England.’ 

" 'I hated selling the farm,’ she said. ‘I sold the 
farm and came into this dingy old London. Sumner 
dragged me here and he’s dragging me down. It’s 
not his fault; it’s how he’s made. But when a 

spring day comes like this-! I think of Kent 

and the winds on the Downs and the blackthorn in 
the hedges and the little yellow noses of the prim¬ 
roses and the first elder leaves coming out, until 
I want to cry and scream. But there’s no getting 
out of it. Here I am. I’ve come to look at these 
flowers here. What’s the good? They just hurt 

“She stared at the flowers. 

“'My God!’ I said, ‘but this hurts me too. I 
didn’t expect-’ 


“ ‘What did you expect?’ she asked, and turned 
that still face of hers to me and silenced me. 

“ ‘I don’t see that it should hurt you,’ she said. 
‘I brought it on myself. You didn’t do it. It hap¬ 
pened to me. It was my fault. Though why God 
made me love beautiful things—and then set a trap 
for me and made me fool enough to fall into it-!’ 

“Silence fell between us. 

“ ‘Meeting you like this,’ I began presently, ‘makes 
me see things—so differently. You see—in those 
old days—in some ways you seemed so much 
stronger than I was. I didn’t understand. ... I 

see- This makes me feel- I ought to have 

taken better care of you.’ 

“ ‘Or shown me mercy. I was dirty and shame¬ 
ful—yes. All that. But you were merciless, Harry. 
Men are merciless to women. I did—all through 
—I loved you, Harry. In a way I’ve always loved 
you and I love you now. When I looked up and 

saw it was you coming back to me- For a 

minute you were just like the old Harry. For a 

moment- It was like Spring coming real. . . . 

But it’s no good talking like that now, Harry. It’s 
too late.’ 

“ ‘Yes,’ I agreed. ‘Too late. . . .’ 

“She watched my face through a long pause. 
I weighed my words when I spoke. ‘Up to now,’ 

I said, ‘I’ve never forgiven. Now- Now I see 

you here I wish—I wish to God—I had forgiven 
you. And made a fight for it with you. We 
might- Suppose, Hetty, suppose I had forgiven 

“ ‘Harry dear,’ she said softly, ‘you don’t want 



to be seen here making a woman cry. We won’t 
talk of that. Tell me about yourself. I’ve heard 
you married again. A beautiful woman. Sumner 
saw r that I heard of that. Are you happy, Harry? 
You look prosperous, and everyone isn’t prosperous 
these post-war times.’ 

“ 'That’s all so-and-so, Hetty. I work hard. I’ve 
got ambitions. I’m still a publisher’s assistant at 
the old place but I’m near to being a director. I’m 

high up. My wife- She’s a dear and a great 

help to me. . . . Somehow meeting you . . . My 
God! Hetty, what a mess we made of things! 
It’s all very well, but the second time of marrying 

isn’t like the first. You and I- I’m a sort of 

blood brother to you and nothing can change it. 
The wood—that little wood where you kissed me! 
Why did we smash it up, Hetty? Why did we do 
it? Two fools who’d got so precious a thing! 
That’s all past. But hate is dead between us. 
That’s past too. If there was anything I could do 
for you now I would do it.’ 

"A gleam of the old humour came, ‘If you could 
kill Sumner,’ she said, ‘and smash the world and 
destroy the memories of three years . . . It’s no 
good, Harry. I ought to have kept myself clean. 
And you—you might have been gentler with me.’ 

“ ‘I couldn’t, Hetty.’ 

“ ‘I knew you couldn’t. And I couldn’t foresee 
that my blood would betray me one evening. And 
here we are! Like meeting after we are dead. 
Spring comes now but it comes for other people. 
All these little crocus trumpets—like a brass band 


it is—they are trumpeting up the next lot of lovers. 
Better luck to them!’ 

“We sat still for a time. In the background 
of my mind Milly and her assembled tea-cups be¬ 
came evident as a faint urgency. ‘You’re late/ 
she’d say. 

“ ‘Where are you living, Hetty?’ I asked. ‘What 
is your address?’ 

“She shook her head after a moment’s thought. 
‘Better you shouldn’t know.’ 

“ ‘But somehow I might help.’ 

“ ‘It would only disturb us all. I’ve got my cup 
—of dirty water—to drink. I’ve got to stand what 
I’m in for. What could you do to help me?’ 

“ ‘Well,’ said I, ‘my address anyhow is easy to 

keep in mind. It’s just what it was when we- 

In the days when we lived- Thunderstone 

House it is. Some day there might be some¬ 

“ ‘It’s good of you.’ 

“We stood up face to face, and as we stood there 
a thousand circumstances vanished and nothing re¬ 
mained but our hurt and injured selves. ‘Good-bye, 
Hetty,’ I said. ‘Good luck.’ 

“Our hands met. ‘Good luck to you, Harry. It’s 
no good, but I’m glad we met like this. And to 
find you forgive me a little at last.’ ” 

§ 3 

“That meeting had a profound effect upon me. 
It banished much aimless reverie from my mind; 
it unlocked the prison in which a whole multitude 
of forbidden thoughts had been confined. I thought 



enormously of Hetty. They were vague and im¬ 
possible thoughts; they came in the night, on the 
way to business, even during slack moments in 
business hours; rehearsals of dramatised encounters, 
explanations, magic turns of circumstances that 
suddenly restored our lost world to us. I tried to 
suppress these cloudy imaginations but with little 
avail; they overspread my mental skies in spite 
of me. I can’t tell you how many times I walked 
through those gardens in Regent’s Park; that detour 
became my normal route from the station to my 
home. And I would even go out of my customary 
way along some side-path because I had caught 
a glimpse far off, between the tree-branches and 
the flower-beds, of a solitary woman. But Pletty 
never came back there. 

“In my brooding over Hetty a jealousy and hatred 
of Sumner developed steadily. I do not think I 
had any desire for Hetty myself but I wanted 
intensely to get her away from him. This hostility 
to Sumner was the ugly undertow of my remorse 
and re-awakened love of Hetty. He was the evil 
thing that had deprived me of Hetty. I did not 
reflect for a moment that it was I with my relentless 
insistence upon divorce that had forced her back to 

“And all this dreaming and brooding and futile 
planning, all this body of desire for something more 
to happen between Hetty and myself, went on with¬ 
out my breathing a word of it to any living soul. 
It was on my conscience that it was disloyal to 
Milly, and I even made a half-hearted attempt to 
tell Milly that I had met Hetty and been shocked 



at her poverty and unhappiness. I wanted to bring 
her into my own state of mind and have her feel as 
I did. I threw out a remark one day—we had gone 
to Hampstead Heath for a walk one afternoon—that 
I had once walked along that ridge by the Round 
Pond with Hetty during my last leave. ‘I wonder 
how she is living now/ I said. 

“Milly did not answer immediately, and when 
I looked at her her face was flushed and hard. T 
hoped you had forgotten her/ she said in a suffocated 

“ ‘This brought it back to me/ 

“ ‘I try never to think of her. You don’t know 
what that woman meant to me—the humiliation. 

“ ‘It was not only for myself/ she added. ‘It 
was for you.’ 

“She said no more but it was manifest how terribly 
the mere name of Hetty had disturbed her.” 

“Poor little things!” cried Firefly. “How insanely 
jealous you all were!” 

“And I did not go to Fanny and tell her about 
Hetty for a time. I had misrepresented Hetty to 
her as a figure of common depravity and I found it 
difficult to put that right. Nowadays I did not see 
so much of Fanny as I had formerly done. She 
was living half-way across London from me. Her 
relations with Newberry were now much more public 
than they had been and she had developed a circle 
of acquaintances who cared for her. But this pub¬ 
licity made Milly more stiff towards her because 
she feared that a scandal would be made about 
Fanny in relation to my position in the firm of 
Crane & Newberry. Near Pangbourne, Newberry 



had taken a bungalow and there Fanny would spend 
whole weeks at a time, quite out of our range. 

“But presently a situation developed which sent 
me post-haste to Fanny for help and advice.” 

§ 4 

“Suddenly in July, when I w r as beginning to think 
I should never hear from her again, Hetty appealed 
to me for help. Would I meet her one evening, 
she asked, by the fountain in the park near the 
Zoological Gardens, and then we could get chairs 
and she would tell me what she had in mind. She 
did not want me to write her a letter, Sumner had 
become very jealous of her, and so would I put an 
advertisement in the Daily Express with the letters 
A B C D and giving the hour and date. I made an 
appointment for the earliest possible evening. 

“Instead of the despondent and spiritless Hetty 
I had met in the spring I found a Hetty high strung 
and excited. ‘1 want some place where we shan’t 
be seen,’ she said as I came up to her. She took 
my arm to turn me about, and led the way towards 
two green chairs standing apart a little away from 
the main walk that here traversed the park. I noted 
that she was still wearing the same shabby dress she 
had had on our previous encounter. Her manner 
with me was quite different from the manner of our 
former meeting. There was something familiar and 
confident about her as though in between she had 
met me in imagination a multitude of times—as no 
doubt she had. 

“ ‘You meant all you said, Harry, when we talked 
before?’ she began. 



“ ‘Everything/ 

“ ‘You will help me if you can?’ 

“ ‘Everything I can/ 

“ ‘Suppose I asked you for some money?’ 

“ ‘Naturally.’ 

“ ‘I want to get away from Sumner. I have a 
chance. I could do it.’ 

“ ‘Tell me about it, Hetty. All I can do, I will.’ 

“ ‘Things have changed, Harry, since that day 
we met. I’d got into a sort of despairing state. I 
took whatever came. Seeing you changed me. I 
don’t know why but it did. Perhaps I was going 
to change anyhow. But I can’t stand being with 
Sumner any longer. And there’s a chance now. 
I shall want a lot of money—sixty or seventy 

“I thought. ‘That’s quite possible, Hetty. If 
you can wait a week or so. Ten days say.’ 

“ ‘You see I have a friend, a girl who married 
a Canadian. She stayed here to have her child 
when he went home and now she goes out to him. 
She’s been ill; she’s not very strong and she doesn’t 
want to face the voyage alone. It would be easy 
for me to get out there with her as her cousin and 
companion. If I had an outfit- We’ve dis¬ 

cussed it all. She knows someone who could man¬ 
age about a passport for me. In my maiden name. 
That’s the scheme. I could have my outfit sent to 
her place. I could slip away/ 

“ ‘You’d take another name? Begin again over 

“‘Yes. . . / 

“I sat considering this project. It pleased me. 


‘There need be no trouble about the money/ I 

“ T can’t go on living with Sumner. You never 
saw him. You don’t know what he’s like.’ 

“ ‘I’ve heard he was good looking.’ 

“‘Don’t I know that face—flushed and weak! 
He’s a liar and a cheat. He has a conceit he can 
best everyone. And he’s begun drinking. God 
knows why I married him. It seemed the natural 
thing somehow since you had divorced me. The 
child had to have a father. . . . But he disgusts 
me, Harry. He disgusts me. I can’t go on. I 
can’t endure it. You can’t imagine it—in those 
little lodgings—in the hot weather. To keep a 
maudlin drunken man away from one. ... If I 
hadn’t seen this way out something worse might 
have happened.’ 

“ ‘Can’t you come away from him at once?’ I 
asked. ‘Why should you ever go back to him?’ 

“ ‘No. I must get clear away or there will be 
mischief. And you mustn’t be in it. He’d think 
of you at once. If he had a hint it was you. That’s 
what you have to do about the money and every¬ 
thing, letters or anything—get it to me without 
your being mixed up with it. You must get me 
money, not cheques. We mustn’t be seen to meet. 
Even about here it’s risky. He’s got into a gang. 
He’s been getting deeper and deeper into a rotten 
set. They blackmail the bookies. They go about 
with revolvers. They pass on things to one an¬ 
other. It grew out of betting and now they call it 
getting a bit of their own back. ... If they spot 
you in it, they’ll come for you.’ 



“ ‘Trench warfare in London. I’ll risk it/ 

“ ‘You needn’t risk anything—if we are discreet. 
If there was some one I could see—who’d hand 
things on.’ 

“I thought at once of my sister Fanny. 

“ ‘That would be safe/ said Hetty. ‘As safe as 
could be. And I’d love to see her again. I loved 
her when I met her. . . . But all this is awful 
good of you, Harry. I don’t deserve a moment’s 

“ ‘Nonsense! I pushed you into the dirt, Hetty/ 

“ ‘I jumped into it/ 

“ ‘Fell into it. It’s nothing very much, Hetty, 
to give you a hand to get out of it again/ ” 

§ 5 

“I went the next day to my sister Fanny to pre¬ 
pare her for Hetty’s call. Fanny sat in an arm-chair 
and listened and watched my face as I told my 
story, confessed how I had exaggerated Hetty’s 
offence and asked for help. ‘I ought to have seen 
her, Harry, before I took your word for it/ she said. 
‘Of course, even now, I can’t imagine how a girl 
who loves one man could ever stand the kiss of 
another as she did, but then, as you say, she’d been 
drinking. We women aren’t all made alike. There’s 
all sorts make a world. Some girls—the backbone 
goes out of them when they feel a man’s kisses. 
You and me, Harry, we aren’t made like that. I’ve 
been thinking while you sat talking there, how like 
we both are to poor mother really—for all she quar¬ 
relled wuth me. We’ll grow hard presently if we 
aren’t careful. And your Hetty was young and 



she didn’t know. Only once it was. And all her 
life’s been spoilt by it! . . . I didn’t know it was 
like that, Harry.’ 

“And my sister Fanny began to recall her im¬ 
pressions of Hetty. She recalled her fine anima¬ 
tion and the living interest of her talk. ‘When she 
left I said to myself, she’s got wit; that’s the first 
witty woman I’ve ever met. She’s got poetry in 
her. Everything she says comes out a little dif¬ 
ferent from the things most people say. She says 
things that come like flowers in a hedgerow. So she 
did. Does she still?” 

“ ‘I never thought of it like that before,’ I said. 
‘I suppose she has a sort of poetry. Only the other 
day—when I met her first. What was it she said? 

“ ‘It’s no good quoting, Harry. Witty things 
should bloom where they grow. They’re no good 
as cut-flowers. But you and I are fairly quick and 
fairly clever, Harry, but we’ve never had any of 

“ ‘I’ve always loved her talk,’ I said. 

“I began to explain the situation to Fanny more 
fully and to show how she could help in it. I was 
not to see Hetty again; Fanny was to see her, pay 
her the hundred pounds we could put together for 
her, communicate with the friends she was to accom¬ 
pany and get her away. Fanny listened gravely and 

“Then she reflected. 

“ ‘Why don’t you take her to Canada yourself, 
Harry?’ she asked abruptly.” 



§ 6 

“I did not answer Fanny for some moments. 
Then I said, T don’t want to.’ 

" ‘I can see yon love Hetty still.’ 

“ 'Love. But I don’t want that.’ 

“ 'You don’t want to be with her?’ 

" 'It’s out of the question. Why ask a painful 
thing like that? All that is dead.’ 

" 'Isn’t a resurrection possible? Why is it out of 
the question? Pride?’ 

" 'No.’ 

" 'Why then?’ 

" 'Milly.’ 

" 'You don’t love Milly.’ 

" 'I won’t have you discuss that, Fanny. I do 
love her.’ 

" ‘Not as you love Hetty.’ 

" 'Quite differently. But Milly trusts me. She 
keeps faith with me. I’d as scon steal money— 
from a child’s money-box—as go back on Milly.’ 

“ ‘It’s wonderful how fine men can be to the 
wives they don’t love,’ said Fanny bitterly. 

“ ‘Newberry’s different,’ I said. ‘I’ve got my 
little son. I’ve got my work. And though you 
will never have it, I love Milly.’ 

“ ‘In a way. Is she company for you? Is she 

“ 'I trust and love her. And as for Hetty, you 
don’t understand about Hetty. I love her. I love 
her enormously. But it’s like two ghosts meeting 
by moonlight. We two are dead to each other and 
—sorrowful. It isn’t as though it was anything 



like your case over again. I see Hetty in hell and 
I’d do nearly anything in life to get her out. I 
don’t even want to meet her. I want to get her 
away out of this filth and stupidity to where she 
can begin again. That’s all I want and that’s all 
she wants. How could she and I ever come to¬ 
gether again? How could we kiss again as lovers 
kiss? Poor defiled things we are! And all my 
cruelty. You’re thinking of something else, Fanny. 
You’re not thinking of Hetty and me.’ 

“ 'Maybe I am,’ said Fanny. ‘Yes, I think I 
am. And so she is to go to Canada and begin 
again—till her health comes back and her courage 
comes back. It isn’t natural for a woman of her 
temperament to live without a man to love her, 

“ ‘Let her live and love,’ said I. ‘She’ll have 
changed her name. Her friends will stand by her. 
They won’t give her away. Let her forget. Let 
her begin again.’ 

“ ‘With another man?’ 

“ ‘It may be.’ 

“ ‘You don’t mind the thought of that?’ 

“I was stung but I kept my temper. ‘Have I 
any right to mind the thought of that now?’ 

“ ‘But you will. And you will go on living with 
this wife you trust and respect. Who’s dull spirited 
—dull as ditchwater.’ 

“ ‘No. Who’s my son’s mother. Who is trust¬ 
worthy. Whom I’m pledged to. And I’ve got my 
work. It may seem nothing to you. It’s good 
enough for me to give myself to it. Can’t I love 


Hetty, can’t I help her out of the net she’s in, and 
yet not want to go back to impossible things?’ 

“ ‘Grey Monday mornings,’ said Fanny. 

“ ‘As if all life wasn’t grey,’ I said. 

“And then,” said Sarnac, “I remember that I 
made a prophecy. I made it—when did I make 
it? Two thousand years ago? Or two weeks ago? 
I sat in Fanny’s little sitting-room, an old-world 
creature amidst her old-world furnishings, and I 
said that men and women would not always suffer 
as we were suffering then. I said that we were still 
poor savages, living only in the bleak dawn of 
civilisation, and that we suffered because we w r ere 
under-bred, under-trained and darkly ignorant of 
ourselves, that the mere fact that we knew our own 
unhappiness was the promise of better things and 
that a day would come when charity and under¬ 
standing would light the world so that men and 
women would no longer hurt themselves and one 
another as they were doing now everywhere, uni¬ 
versally, in law and in restriction and in jealousy 
and in hate, all round and about the earth. 

“ ‘It is still too dark for us,’ I said, ‘to see clearly 
where we are going, and everyone of us blunders 
and stumbles and does wrong. Everyone. It is 
idle for me to ask now what is the right thing for 
me to do? Whatever I do now will be wrong. I 
ought to go with Hetty and be her lover again— 
easily I could do that and why should I deny it?— 
and I ought to stick to Milly and the work I have 
found in the world. Right road or left road, both 
lead to sorrow and remorse, but there is scarcely 
a soul in all this dark world, Fanny, who has not 



had to make or who will not presently have to make 
a choice as hard. I will not pull the skies down 
upon Milly, I cannot because she has put her faith 
in me. You are my dear sister Fanny and I love 
you and we have loved each other. Do you remem¬ 
ber how you used to take me round to school and 
hold my hand at the crossings? Don’t make things 
too hard for me now. Just help me to help Hetty. 
Don’t tear me to pieces. She is still alive and 
young and—Hetty. Out there—she at least can 
begin again.’ ” 

§ 7 

“Nevertheless, I did see Hetty again before she 
left England. There came a letter for me at Thun- 
derstone House in which she proposed a meeting. 

“ ‘You have been so kind to me/ she wrote. ‘It 
is the next best thing to your never having left me. 
You have been a generous dear. You’ve given back 
happiness to me. I feel excited already at the 
thought of the great liner and the ocean and full of 
hope. We’ve got a sort of picture of the ship; it is 
like a great hotel; with our cabin marked in it ex¬ 
actly where it is. Canada will be wonderful; Our 
Lady of the Snows; and we are going by way of 
New York, New York, like nothing else on earth, 
cliffs and crags of windows, towering up to the sky. 
And it’s wonderful to have new things again. I 
sneak off to Fanny’s just to finger them over. I’m 
excited—yes, and grateful—yes, and full of hope— 
yes. And Harry, Harry, my heart aches and aches. 
I want to see you again. I don’t deserve to but I 
want to see you again. We began with a walk 



and why shouldn’t we end w T ith a walk? Thursday 
and Friday all the gang will be at Leeds. I could 
get away the whole day either day and it would be 
a miracle if anyone knew. I wish we could have 
that same old walk again. I suppose it’s too far and 
impossible. We’ll save that, Harry, until we’re both 
quite dead and then we’ll be two little swirls of 
breeze in the grass or two bits of thistledown going 
side by side. But there was that other walk we had 
when we went to Shere and right over the North 
Downs to Leatherhead. We looked across the 
Weald and saw our own South Downs far, far away. 
Pinewood and heather there was; hills beyond hills. 
And the smoke of rubbish-burning.’ 

“I was to write to Fanny’s address. 

“Of course we had that walk, we two half-resusci- 
tated lovers. We did not make love at all though 
we kissed when we met and meant to kiss when we 
parted. We talked as I suppose dead souls might 
talk of the world that had once been real. We 
talked of a hundred different things—even of Sum¬ 
ner. Now that she was so near escape from him 
her dread and hatred had evaporated. She said 
Sumner had a passionate desire for her and a real 
need of her and that it was not fair to him and very 
bad for him that she despised him. It wounded 
his self-respect. It made him violent and defiant. 
A woman who cared for him, who would take the 
pains to watch him and care for him as a woman 
should do for a man, might have made something 
of him. 'But I’ve never cared for him, Harry; 
though I’ve tried. But I can see where things hurt 
him. I can see they hurt him frightfully at times. 



It doesn’t hurt him any the less because he does 
ugly things.’ He was vain, too, and ashamed of his 
incapacity to get a sufficient living. He was drift¬ 
ing very rapidly to a criminal life and she had no 
power over him to hold him back. 

“I can still see Hetty and hear her voice, as we 
walked along a broad bridle-path between great 
rhododendron bushes, and she talked, grave and 
balanced and kind she was, of this rogue who had 
cheated her and outraged her and beaten her. It 
was a new aspect of Hetty and yet at the same time 
it was the old dear Hetty I had loved and wasted 
and lost, clear-minded and swift, with an under¬ 
standing better than her will. 

“We sat for a long time on the crest of the Downs 
above Shere where the view was at its widest and 
best, and we recalled the old days of happiness in 
Kent and talked of the distances before us and of 
crossing the sea and of France and so of the whole 
wide world. T feel,’ she said, 'as I used to when 
I was a child, at the end of the school quarter. I’m 
going away to new things. Put on your frock, put 
on your hat; the big ship is waiting. I am a 
little frightened about it and rather happy. ... I 
wish- But never mind that.’ 

“ 'You wish-?’ 

“ 'What else could I wish?’ 

'"You mean-?’ 

“ ‘It’s no good wishing.” 

“ 'I’ve got to stick to the job I’ve taken. I’ve got 
to see it through. But if you care to know it, 
Hetty, I wish so too. My God!—if wishes could 
release one!’ 



“ ‘You’ve got your job here. I wouldn’t take 
you away, Harry, if I could. Sturdy you are, 
Harry, and you’ll go through with it and do the 
work you’re made to do—and I’ll take what comes 
to me. Over there I guess I’ll forget a lot about 
Sumner and the things that have happened in be¬ 
tween—and think a lot about you and the South 
Downs and this—how we sat side by side here. 

“ ‘Perhaps,’ said Hetty, ‘heaven is a place like 
this. A great hillside to which you come at last, 
after all the tugging and pushing and the hoping 
and the disappointments and the spurring and the 
hungers and the cruel jealousies are done with and 
finished for ever. Then here you sit down and rest. 
And you aren’t alone. Your lover is here and he 
sits beside you and you just touch shoulder to 
shoulder, very close and very still, and your sins 
are forgiven you; your blunders and misunder¬ 
standings they matter no longer; and the beauty 
takes you and you dissolve into it, you dissolve into 
it side by side and together you forget and fade 
until at last nothing remains of all the distresses 
and anger and sorrow, nothing remains of you at 
all but the breeze upon the great hillside and sun¬ 
shine and everlasting peace. . . . 

“ ‘All of which,’ said Hetty, rising abruptly to 
her feet and standing over me, ‘is just empty noth¬ 
ingness. Oh Harry! Harry! One feels things and 
when one tries to say them it is just words and 
nonsense. We’ve hardly started on our way to 
Leatherhead and you’ll have to be back by seven. 
So get up, old Harry. Get up and come on. You 
are the dearest person alive and it has been sweet 



of you to come with me to-day. I was half-afraid 
you’d think it wasn’t wise. . . .’ 

“In the late afternoon we got to a place called 
Little Bookham and there we had tea. About a 
mile farther on was a railway station and we found 
a train for London; it came in as we got on to the 

“Everything had gone well so far and then came 
the first gleam of disaster. At Leatherhead we sat 
looking out on the station platform and a little 
ruddy man came trotting along to get into the com¬ 
partment next to us, a little common fellow like an 
ostler with a cigar under his Hebrew nose, and as 
he was about to get in he glanced up at us. Doubt 
and then recognition came into his eyes and at the 
sight of him Hetty recoiled. 

“ ‘Get in,’ said the guard, blowing his whistle, 
and the little man was hustled out of sight. 

“Hetty was very white. T know that man,’ 
she said, ‘and he knows me. He’s named Barnado. 
What shall I do?’ 

“ ‘Nothing. Does he know you very well?’ 

“ ‘He’s been to our rooms—three or four times.’ 

“ He may not have been sure it was you.’ 

“ ‘I think he was. Suppose he were to come to 
the window at the next station to make certain. 
Could I pretend not to be myself? Refuse to recog¬ 
nise him or answer to my name?’ 

“ ‘But if he was convinced it was you in spite of 
your bluff that would instantly make him suspi¬ 
cious and off he’d go to your husband! If on the 
other hand you took it all quite casually—said I 
was your cousin or your brother-in-law—he might 



think nothing of it and never even mention it to 
Sumner. But making him suspicious would send 
him off to Sumner right away. Anyhow, you go to 
Liverpool to-morrow. I don’t see that his recog¬ 
nition of you matters.’ 

“ ‘I’m thinking of you,’ she said. 

“ ‘But he doesn’t know who I am. So far as I 
know none of that lot has seen me. . . .’ 

“The train slowed down at the next station. Mr. 
Barnado appeared, cigar and all, bright-eyed and 

“ ‘Blest if I didn’t say to myself that’s Hetty 
Sumner!’ said Mr. Barnado. ‘Wonderful ’ow one 
meets people!’ 

“ ‘My brother-in-law, Mr. Dyson,’ said Hetty, 
introducing me. ‘We’ve been down to see his little 

“ ‘I didn’t know you ’ad a sister, Mrs. Sumner.’ 

“ ‘I haven’t,’ said Hetty, with a note of pain in 
her voice. ‘Mr. Dyson is a widower.’ 

“ ‘Sorry,’ said Mr. Barnado. ‘Stupid of me. And 
what age might the little girl be, Mr. Dyson?’ 

“I found myself under the necessity of creating, 
explaining and discussing an orphan daughter. Mr. 
Barnado had three and was uncomfortably expert 
about children and their phases of development. 
He was evidently a model father. I did as well 
as I could, I drew out Mr. Barnado’s family pride 
rather than indulged my own, but I was immensely 
relieved when Mr. Barnado exclaimed, ‘Gawd! 
’Ere’s Epsom already! Glad to ’ave met you, 

“ ‘Damn!’ I said to myself. I had forgotten. 



“ ‘Dixon/ said Hetty hastily, and Mr. Barnado, 
after effusive farewells, proceeded to remove himself 
from the carriage. 

“‘Thank Heaven!’ said Hetty, ‘he didn’t come 
on to London. You’re the poorest liar, Harry, I’ve 
ever known. As it is—no harm’s been done.’ 

“ ‘No harm’s been done,’ said I, but two or three 
times before we reached the London station where 
we were to part for ever, we recurred to the encoun¬ 
ter and repeated the reassuring formula that no 
harm had been done. 

“We parted at Victoria Station with very little 
emotion. Mr. Barnado had brought us back, as it 
were, to an everyday and incidental atmosphere. 
We did not kiss each other again. The world about 
us had become full now of observant eyes. My last 
words to Hetty were ‘Everything’s all right!’ in a 
business-like, reassuring tone, and the next day she 
slipped off to join her friends at Liverpool and passed 
out of my life for ever.” 

§ 8 

“For three or four days I did not feel this second 
separation from Hetty very greatly. My mind was 
still busy with the details of her departure. On 
the third day she sent me a wireless message, as 
we used to call it, to Thunderstone House. ‘Well 
away/ she said. ‘Fine weather. Endless love and 
gratitude.’ Then slowly as the days passed my sense 
of loss grew upon me, the intimations of an immense 
loneliness gathered and spread until they became 
a cloud that darkened all my mental sky. I was 
persuaded now that there was no human being who 



could make me altogether happy but Hetty, and 
that for the second time I was rejecting the possi¬ 
bility of companionship with her. I had wanted 
love, I perceived, without sacrifice, and in that old 
world, it seems to me now, love was only possible 
at an exorbitant price, sacrifice of honour, sacrifice 
of one’s proper work in the world, humiliations and 
distresses. I had shirked the price of Hetty and 
she was going from me, taking out of my life for 
ever all those sweet untellable things that were the 
essence of love, the little names, the trivial careless 
caresses, the exquisite gestures of mind and body, 
the moments of laughter and pride and perfect 
understanding. Day by day love went westward 
from me. Day and night I was haunted by a more 
and more vivid realisation of a great steamship, 
throbbing and heaving its way across the crests and 
swelling waves of the Atlantic welter. The rolling 
black coal-smoke from its towering funnels poured 
before the wind. Now I would see that big ocean¬ 
going fabric in the daylight; now lit brightly from 
stem to stern, under the stars. 

“I was full of unappeasable regret, I indulged 
in endless reveries of a flight across the Atlantic in 
pursuit of Hetty, of a sudden dramatic appearance 
before her;—‘Hetty, I can’t stand it. I’ve come’ 
—and all the time I stuck steadfastly to the course 
I had chosen. I worked hard and late at Thunder- 
stone House; I did my best to shunt my imagina¬ 
tion into new channels by planning two new quasi- 
educational publications, and I set myself to take 
Milly out to restaurants to dinner and to the theatre 
and to interesting shows. And in the midst of some 



picture-show perhaps I would find my rebel mind 
speculating what sort of thing Hetty would have 
said of it, had she been there. There was a little 
show of landscapes at the Alpine Gallery and several 
were pictures of Downland scenery and one showed 
a sunlit hillside under drowsy white clouds. It was 
almost like seeing Hetty. 

“It was exactly a week after Hetty’s landing in 
New York that I first encountered Sumner. It was 
my usual time of arrival and I was just turning out 
of Tottenham Court Road into the side street that 
led to the yard of Thunderstone House. There was 
a small public-house in this byway and two men 
were standing outside it in attitudes of expectation. 
One of them stepped out to accost me. He was a 
little flushed Jewish man, and for the moment I did 
not recognise him at all. 

“ 'Mr. Smith?’ said he, and scrutinised me queerly. 

“ 'At your service,’ said I. 

“ ‘Not by any chance Mr. Dyson or Dixon, eh?’ 
he asked with a leer. 

“‘Barnado!’ cried my memory and placed him. 
My instant recognition must have betrayed itself in 
my face. Our eyes met and there were no secrets 
between them. ‘No, Mr. Barnado,’ I said with 
incredible stupidity; ‘my name’s just plain Smith.’ 

“ ‘Don’t mention it, Mr. Smith, don’t mention 
it,’ said Mr. Barnado with extreme politeness. ‘I 
had a sort of fancy I might have met you before.’ 
And turning to his companion and raising his voice 
a little, he said, ‘That’s him all right, Sumner—sure 
as eggs are eggs.’ 

“Sumner! I glanced at this man who had given 



my life so disastrous a turn. He was very much my 
own height and build, fair with a blotched com¬ 
plexion and wearing a checked grey suit and an 
experienced-looking grey felt hat. He might have 
been my unsuccessful half-brother. Our eyes met 
in curiosity and antagonism. Tm afraid I’m not 
the man you want/ I said to Earnado and went on 
my way. I didn’t see any advantage in an imme¬ 
diate discussion in that place. I perceived that an 
encounter was inevitable, but I meant it to happen 
amidst circumstances of my own choice and after 
I had had time to consider the situation properly. 
I heard something happen behind me and Barnado 
said: ‘Shut up, you fool! You’ve found out what 
you w^ant to know.’ I went through the passages 
and rooms of Thunderstone House to my office and 
there, when I was alone, I sat down in my arm-chair 
and swore very heartily. Every day since the de¬ 
parture of Hetty I had been feeling more and more 
sure that this at least was not going to happen. I 
had thought that Sumner was very easily and safely 
and completely out of the story. 

“I took my writing-pad and began to sketch out 
the situation. ‘Ends to be secured / I wrote. 

“ ‘No. 1. Hetty must not be traced. 

“ ‘No. 2. Milly must hear nothing of this. 

“ ‘No. 3. No blackmailing.’ 

“I considered. ‘But if a lump payment,’ I began. 
This I scratched out again. 

“I had to scheme out the essential facts. ‘What 
does S. know? What evidence exists? Of what? 
No clue to lead to Fanny? There is nothing but 



that journey in the train. He will have a moral 
certainty but will it convince anyone else?’ 

“I wrote a new heading: ‘How to handle them?’ 

“I began to sketch grotesques and arabesques over 
my paper as I plotted. Finally I tore it up into 
very small fragments and dropped it into my waste- 
paper basket. A messenger-girl rapped and came 
in with a paper slip, bearing the names of Fred 
Sumner and Arthur Barnado. 

“ ‘They’ve not put the business they want to talk 
about/ I remarked. 

“ ‘They said you’d know, Sir.’ 

“ ‘No excuse. I want everybody to fill in that,’ 
I said. ‘Just say I’m too busy to see strangers who 
don’t state their business. And ask them to complete 
the form.’ 

“Back came the form: ‘Enquiry about Mr. Sum¬ 
ner’s missing wife.’ 

“I considered it calmly. ‘I don’t believe we ever 
had the manuscript. Say I’m engaged up to half¬ 
past twelve. Then I could have a talk of ten min¬ 
utes with Mr. Sumner alone. Make that clear. I 
don’t see where Mr. Barnado comes in. Make it 
clear it’s a privilege to see me.’ 

“My messenger did not reappear. I resumed my 
meditations on the situation. There was time for 
a lot of aggressive energy to evaporate before half- 
past twelve. Probably both of the men had come 
in from the outskirts and would have nowhere to 
wait but the streets or a public-house. Mr. Barnado 
might want to be back upon his own business at 
Epsom. He’d played his part in identifying me. 
Anyhow, I didn’t intend to have any talk with 



Sumner before a witness. If he reappeared with 
Barnado I should refuse to see them. For Barnado 
alone I had a plan and for Sumner I had a plan, 
but not for the two of them together. 

“My delaying policy was a good one. At half¬ 
past twelve Sumner came alone and was shown up 
to me. 

“ ‘Sit down there,’ I said abruptly and leant back 
in my chair and stared at his face and waited in 
silence for him to begin. 

“For some moments he did not speak. He had 
evidently expected me to open with some sort of 
question and he had come ready loaded with a reply. 
To be plumped into a chair and looked at, put him 
off his game. He tried to glare at me and I looked 
at his face as if I was looking at a map. As I did 
so I found my hatred for him shrinking and chang¬ 
ing. It wasn’t a case for hatred. He had such a 
poor, mean, silly face, a weak arrangement of plau¬ 
sibly handsome features. Every now and then it 
was convulsed by a nervous twitch. His straw- 
coloured moustache was clipped back more on one 
side than the other, and his rather frayed necktie 
had slipped down to display his collar stud and the 
grubbiness of his collar. He had pulled his mouth 
a little askew and thrust his face forward in an 
attempt at fierceness, and his rather watery blue 
eyes were as open and as protruded as he could 

“ ‘Where’s my wife, Smith?’ he said at last. 

“ ‘Out of my reach, Mr. Sumner, and out of yours.’ 

“ ‘Where’ve you hid her?’ 

“ ‘She’s gone,’ I said. ‘It’s no work of mine.’ 



“ ‘She’s come back to you.’ 

“I shook my head. 

“ ‘You know where she is?’ 

“ ‘She’s gone clear, Sumner. You let her go.’ 

“ ‘Let her go! You let her go, but I’m not going 
to. I’m not that sort. Here’s this girl you marry 
and mess about with and when she comes across a 
man who’s a bit more of a man than you are and 
handles her as a woman ought to be handled, you 
go and chuck her out and divorce her, divorce her 
with her child coming, and then start planning and 
plotting to get her away from the man she’s given 
her love to-’ 

“He stopped for want of words or breath. He 
wanted to exasperate me and start a shouting match. 
I said nothing. 

“ ‘I want Hetty back,’ he said. ‘She’s my wife 
and I want her back. She’s mine and the sooner 
this foolery stops the better.’ 

“I sat up to the desk and put my elbows on it. 

“ ‘You won’t get her back,’ I said very quietly. 
‘What are you going to do about it?’ 

“ ‘By God! I’ll have her back—if I swing for it.’ 

“ ‘Exactly. And what are you going to do?’ 

“ ‘What can’t I do? I’m her husband.’ 

“ ‘Well?’ 

“ ‘You’ve got her.’ 

“ ‘Not a scrap of her.’ 

“ ‘She’s missing. I can go to the police.’ 

“ ‘Go to them. What will they do?’ 

“ ‘I can put them on to you.’ 

“ ‘Not a bit of it. They won’t bother about me. 
If your wife’s missing and you go to the police, 



they’ll clear up all your gang with their enquiries. 
They’ll be only too glad of the chance. Trouble 
me! They’ll dig up the cellars in your house and 
in your previous house to find the body. They’ll 
search you and ransack you. And what they don’t 
do to you, your pals will.’ 

“Sumner leaned forward and grimaced like a 
gargoyle to give his words greater emphasis. ‘Yew 
were the last man seen with her,’ he said. 

“ ‘Not a scrap of evidence.’ 

“Sumner cursed vigorously. ‘He saw you.’ 

“ ‘I can deny that absolutely. Frowsty little wit¬ 
ness your friend Barnado. Don’t be too sure he’ll 
stick it. Nasty business if a woman disappears and 
you find yourself trying to fix something that won’t 
hold water on to someone her husband dislikes. If 
I were you, Sumner, I wouldn’t take that line. Even 
if he backs you up, what does it prove? You know 
of nobody else who pretends to have seen me with 
Hetty. You won’t be able to find anybody. . . .’ 

“Mr. Sumner extended his hand towards my table. 
He was too far away to bang it properly so he pulled 
his chair up closer. The bang when it came was 
ineffective. ‘Look ’ere,’ he said and moistened his 
lips. ‘I want my Hetty back and I’m going to have 
her back. You’re precious cool and cucumberish 
and all that just now, but by God! I’ll warm you 
up before I’ve done with you. You think you can 
get her away and bluff me off. Never made such a 
mistake in your life. Suppose I don’t go to the 
police. Suppose I go for direct action. Suppose 
I come round to your place, and make a fuss with 
your wife.” 



“ 'That will be a nuisance/ I said. 

“He followed up his advantage. 'A masterpiece 
of a nuisance.’ 

“I considered the forced fierceness of his face. 

“ 'I shall say I know nothing about your wife’s 
disappearance and that you are a blackmailing liar. 
People will believe me. My wife will certainly 
believe me. She’d make herself do so if your story 
was ten times as possible. Your friend Barnado 
and you will make a pretty couple of accusers. I 
shall say you are a crazy jealous fool, and if you keep 
the game up I shall have you run in. I’d not be 
altogether sorry to have you run in. There’s one 
or two little things I don’t like you for. I’d not be 
so very sorry to get quits.’ 

“I had the better of him. He was baffled and 
angry but I saw now plainly that he had no real 
fight in him. 

“ 'And you know where she is?’ he said. 

“I was too full of the spirit of conflict now to be 
discreet. ‘I know where she is. And you don’t get 
her—whatever you do. And as I said before, What 
can you do about it?’ 

“ 'My God!’ he said. ‘My own wife.’ 

“I leant back with the air of a man who had fin¬ 
ished an interview. I looked at my wrist-watch. 

“He stood up. 

“I looked up at him brightly. ‘Well?’ I said. 

“'Look here!’ he spluttered. ‘I don’t stand this. 
By God! I tell you I want Hetty. I want her. I 
want her and I’ll do what I like with her. D’you 
think I’ll take this? Me? She’s mine, you dirty 



“I took up a drawing for an illustration and held 
it in my hand, regarding him with an expression of 
mild patience that maddened him. 

“ ‘Didn’t I marry her—when I needn’t have? If 
you wanted her, why the devil didn’t you keep her 
when you had her? I tell you I won’t stand it.’ 

“ ‘My dear Sumner, as I said before, What can 
you do about it?’ 

“He leant over the desk, shook a finger as though 
it was a pistol barrel in my face. ‘I’ll let daylight 
through you,’ he said. ‘I’ll let daylight through you.’ 

“ ‘I’ll take my chance of that,’ I said. 

“He expressed his opinion of me for a bit. 

“ ‘I won’t argue your points,’ I said. ‘I guess we’re 
about through with this interview. Don’t shock 
my clerk, please, when she comes in.’ And I rang 
the bell on my desk. 

“His parting shot was feeble. ‘You’ve not heard 
the last of me. I mean what I told you.’ 

“ ‘Mind the step,’ said I. 

“The door closed and left me strung up and trem¬ 
bling with excitement but triumphant. I felt I had 
beaten him and that I could go on beating him. It 
might be he would shoot. He’d probably got a 
revolver. But it was ten to one he’d take the trouble 
to get a fair chance at me and screw himself up to 
shooting pitch. And with his loose twitching face 
and shaky hand it was ten to one against his hitting 
me. He’d aim anyhow. He’d shoot too soon. And 
if he shot me it was ten to one he only wounded me 
slightly. Then I’d carry through my story against 
him. Milly might be shaken for a time, but I’d get 
the thing right again with her. 



“I sat for a long time turning over the possibilities 
of the case. The more I considered it the more satis¬ 
fied I was with my position. It was two o’clock and 
long past my usual lunch time when I went off to 
my club. I treated myself to the unusual luxury of 
a half-bottle of champagne.” 

§ 9 

“I never believed Sumner would shoot me until 
I was actually shot. 

“He waylaid me in the passage-way to the yard 
of Thunderstone House as I was returning from 
lunch just a week after our first encounter and when 
I was beginning to hope he had accepted his defeat. 
He had been drinking, and as soon as I saw his 
flushed face, half-angry and half-scared, I had an 
intimation of what might befall. I remember that 
I thought then that if anything happened he must 
get away because otherwise he might be left to tell 
his tale after I was dead. But I didn’t realty believe 
he was man enough to shoot and even now I do not 
believe that. He fired through sheer lack of nervous 
and muscular co-ordination. 

“He did not produce his pistol until I was close 
up to him. 'Now then,’ said he, ‘you’re for it. 
Where’s my wife?’ and out came the pistol a yard 
from me. 

“I forget my answer. I probably said, 'Put that 
away’ or something of that sort. And then I may 
have seemed about to snatch it. The report of the 
pistol, which sounded very loud to me, came at once, 
and a feeling as though I’d been kicked in the small 
of the back. The pistol was one of those that go 



on firing automatically as long as the trigger is 
gripped. It fired two other shots, and one got my 
knee and smashed it. 'Damn the thing!’ he screamed 
and threw it down as though it had stung him. 'Get 
out, you fool. Run!’ I said as I lurched towards 
him, and then as I fell I came within a foot of his 
terrified face as he dashed past me towards the main 
thoroughfare. He thrust me back with his hand as 
I reeled upon him. 

"I think I rolled over on to my back into a sitting 
position after I fell, because I have a clear impres¬ 
sion of him vanishing like the tail of a bolting rabbit 
into Tottenham Court Road. I saw a van and an 
omnibus pass across the space at the end of the 
street, heedless altogether of the pistol shots that 
had sounded so terrible in my ears. A girl and a 
man passed with equal indifference. He was clear. 
Poor little beast! I’d stolen his Hetty. And now- 

"I was very clear-headed. A little numbed where 
I had been hit but not in pain. I was chiefly aware 
of my smashed knee, which looked very silly with 
its mixture of torn trouser and red stuff and a little 
splintered pink thing that I supposed was an end of 

"People from nowhere were standing about me 
and saying things to me. They had come out of 
the yard or from the public-house. I made a swift 
decision. 'Pistol went off in my hand,’ I said, and 
shut my eyes. 

"Then a fear of a hospital came upon me. 'My 
home quite handy,’ I said. ‘Eight Chester Terrace, 
Regent’s Park. Get me there, please.’ 

“I heard them repeating the address and I recog- 



nised the voice of Crane & Newberry’s door porter. 
‘That’s right/ he was saying. ‘It’s Mr. Mortimer 
Smith. Anything I can do for you, Mr. Smith?’ 

“I do not remember much of the details of what 
followed. When they moved me there was pain. I 
seem to have been holding on to what I meant to 
say and do, and my memory does not seem to have 
recorded anything else properly. I may have fainted 
once or twice. Newberry was in it somehow. I 
think he took me home in his car. ‘How did it 
happen?’ he asked. That I remember quite clearly. 

“ ‘The thing went off in my hand,’ I said. 

“One thing I was very certain about. Whatever 
happened they were not going to hang that poor, 
silly, hunted cheat, Sumner. Whatever happened, 
the story of Hetty must not come out. If it did, 
Milly would think only one thing: that I had been 
unfaithful to her and that Sumner had killed me on 
that account. Hetty was all right now. I needn’t 
bother about Hetty any more. I had to think of 
Milly—and Sumner. It is queer, but I seem to have 
known I was mortally wounded from the very instant 
I was shot. 

“Milly appeared, full of solicitude. 

“ ‘Accident,’ I said to her with all my strength. 
‘Went off in my hand.’ 

“My own bed. 

“Clothes being cut away. Round my knee the 
cloth had stuck. The new grey suit which I’d meant 
should last the whole summer. 

“Then two strangers became conspicuous, doctors, 
I suppose, whispering, and one of them had his 
sleeves up and showed a pair of fat pink arms. 



Sponges and a tinkle of water dripping into a basin. 
They prodded me about. Damn! That hurt! Then 
stinging stuff. What was the good of it? I was in 
the body they were prodding, and I knew all about 
it and I was sure that I was a dead man. 

“Milly again. 

“‘My dear,’ I whispered. ‘Dear!’ and her poor, 
tearful face beamed love upon me. 

“Valiant Milly! Things had never been fair to 

“Fanny? Had Newberry gone to fetch her? Any¬ 
how he had vanished. 

“She’d say nothing about Hetty. She was as safe 
as—safe as what?—what did one say?—anything 

“Poor dears! What a fuss they were all in. It 
seemed almost shameful of me to be glad that I 
was going out of it all. But I was glad. This pistol 
shot had come like the smashing of a window in a 
stuffy room. My chief desire was to leave kind and 
comforting impressions on those poor survivors who 
might still have to stay on in the world of muddle 
for years and years. Life! What a muddle and a 
blundering it had been! I’d never have to grow 
old now anyhow. . . . 

“There was an irruption. People coming in from 
the dressing-room. One was a police inspector in 
uniform. The other showed policeman through his 
plainclothes. Now was the time for it! I was quite 
clear-headed—quite. I must be careful what I said. 
If I didn’t want to say anything I could just close 
my eyes. 

“ ‘Bleeding internally,’ said someone. 



“Then the police inspector sat down on the bed. 
What a whale he was!—and asked me questions. I 
wondered if anyone had caught a glimpse of Sumner. 
Sumner, bolting like a rabbit. I must risk that. 

“ Tt went off in my hand/ I said. 

“ ‘What was he saying? How long had I had 
that revolver? 

“ ‘Bought it this lunch time/ I said. 

“Did he ask why? He did. ‘Keep up my shooting.’ 

“WEere? He wanted to know where. ‘Highbury.’ 

“ ‘What part of Highbury?’ They wanted to trace 
the pistol. That wouldn’t do. Give Mr. Inspector 
a paper chase. ‘Near Highbury.’ 

“ ‘Not in Highbury?’ 

“I decided to be faint and stupid. ‘That way/ I 
said faintly. 

“ ‘A pawnshop?’ 

“Best not to answer. Then as if by an effort, ‘Lil’ 

“ ‘Unredeemed pledges?’ 

“I said nothing to that. I was thinking of another 
touch to the picture I was painting. 

“I spoke with weak indignation. ‘I didn’t think 
it was loaded. How was I to know it was loaded? 
It ought not to have been sold—loaded like that. 
I was just looking at it-’ 

“I Stopped short and shammed exhaustion. Then 
I felt that I was not shamming exhaustion. I was 
exhausted. Gods! but the stuffing was out of me! 
I was sinking, sinking, out of the bedroom, out from 
among this group of people. They were getting 
little and faint and flimsy. Was there anything 
more to say? Too late if there was. I was falling 


asleep, falling into a sleep, so profound, so fathom¬ 
less. . . . 

“Far away now was the little roomful of people, 
and infinitely small. 

“'He’s going!’ somebody said in a minute voice. 

“I seemed to come back for an instant. 

“I heard the rustle of Milly’s dress as she came 
across the room to me. . . . 

“And then, then I heard Hetty’s voice again and 
opened my eyes and saw Hetty bending down over 
me—in that lovely place upon this mountain-side. 
Only Hetty had become my dear Sunray who is 
mistress of my life. And the sunshine was on us 
and on her face, and I stretched because my back 
was a little stiff and one of my knees was twisted.” 

“ ‘Wake up! I said,’ ” said Sunray. “ ‘Wake up,’ 
and I shook you.” 

“And then we came and laughed at you,” said 
Radiant. “Firefly and I.” 

“And you said, ‘then there is another life,’ ” said 
Firefly. “And the tale is only a dream! It has 
been a good tale, Sarnac, and somehow you have 
made me think it was true.” 

“As it is,” said Sarnac. “For I am as certain I 
was Henry Mortimer Smith yesterday as I am that 
I am Sarnac here and now.” 



§ 1 

The guest-master poked the sinking fire into a 
last effort. “So am I,” he said, and then with pro¬ 
found conviction, “That tale is true.” 

“But how could it be true?” asked Willow. 

“I should be readier to believe it true if Sarnac 
had not brought in Sunray as Hetty,” said Radiant. 
“It was very dreamlike, the way Hetty grew more 
and more like his dear lady and at last dissolved 
altogether into her.” 

“But if Smith was a sort of anticipation of Sar¬ 
nac,” said Starlight, “then it was natural for him to 
choose as his love a sort of anticipation of Sunray.” 

“But are there any other anticipations in the 
story?” asked Willow. “Did you recognise any 
other people w T ho are intimate with you both? Is 
there a Fanny in this world? Is there a Matilda 
Good or a brother Ernest? Was Sarnac’s mother 
like Martha Smith?” 

“That tale,” said the guest-master, stoutly, “was 
no dream. It was a memory floating up out of 
the deep darkness of forgotten things into a kindred 

Sarnac thought, “What is a personality but a 
memory? If the memory of Harry Mortimer Smith 




is in my brain, then I am Smith. I feel as sure 
that I was Smith two thousand years ago as that 
I was Sarnac this morning. Sometimes before this 
in my dreams I have had a feeling that I lived again 
forgotten lives. Have none of you felt that?” 

“I dreamt the other day,” said Radiant, “that 
I was a panther that haunted a village of huts in 
which lived naked children and some very tooth¬ 
some dogs. And how I was hunted for three years 
and shot at five times before I was killed. I can 
remember how I killed an old woman gathering 
sticks and hid part of her body under the roots of 
a tree to finish it on the morrow. It was a very 
vivid dream. And as I dreamt it it was by no means 
horrible. But it was not a clear and continuous 
dream like yours. A panther’s mind is not clear 
and continuous, but passes from flashes of interest 
to interludes of apathy and utter forgetfulness. 

“When children have dreams of terror, of being 
in the wild with prowling beasts, of long pursuits 
and hairbreadth escapes, perhaps it is the memory 
of some dead creature that lives again in them?” 
asked Starlight. “What do we know of the stuff 
of memory that lies on the other side of matter? 
What do we know of the relations of consciousness 
to matter and energy? For four thousand years 
men have speculated about these things, and we 
know no more to-day than they did in Athens when 
Plato taught and Aristotle studied. Science in¬ 
creases and the power of man grows but only inside 
the limits of life’s conditions. We may conquer 
space and time, but we shall never conquer the 
mystery of what we are, and why we can be matter 



that feels and wills. My brother and I have much 
to do with animals and more and more do I perceive 
that what they are I am. They are instruments 
with twenty strings while we have ten thousand, 
but they are instruments like ourselves; what plays 
upon them plays upon us, and what kills them kills 
us. Life and death alike are within the crystal 
sphere that limits us for ever. Life cannot penetrate 
and death will not penetrate that limitation. What 
memories are we cannot tell. If I choose to believe 
that they float away like gossamer nets when we 
die, and that they float I know not where, and that 
they can come back presently into touch with other 
such gossamer nets, who can contradict me? Maybe 
life from its very beginning has been spinning 
threads and webs of memories. Not a thing in the 
past, it may be, that has not left its memories about 
us. Some day we may learn to gather in that for¬ 
gotten gossamer, we may learn to weave its strands 
together again, until the whole past is restored to 
us and life becomes one. Then perhaps the crystal 
sphere will break. And however that may be, and 
however these things may be explained, I can well 
believe without any miracles that Sarnac has 
touched down to the real memory of a human life 
that lived and suffered two thousand years ago. 
And I believe that, because of the reality of the 
story he told. I have felt all along that whatever 
interrupting question we chose to ask, had we asked 
what buttons he wore on his jacket or how deep the 
gutters were at the pavement edge or what was the 
price he had paid for his cigarettes, he would have 


been ready with an answer, more exact and sure 
than any historian could have given.” 

“And I too believe that,” said Sunray. “I have 
no memory of being Hetty, but in everything he 
said and did, even in his harshest and hardest acts, 
Smith and Sarnac were one character. I do not 
question for a moment that Sarnac lived that life.” 

§ 2 

“But the hardness of it!” cried Firefly; “the 
cruelty! The universal heartache!” 

“It could have been only a dream,” persisted 

“It is not the barbarism I think of,” said Firefly; 
“not the wars and diseases, the shortened, crippled 
lives, the ugly towns, the narrow countryside, but 
worse than that the sorrow of the heart, the uni¬ 
versal unkindness, the universal failure to under¬ 
stand or care for the thwarted desires and needs of 
others. As I think of Sarnac’s story I cannot think 
of any one creature in it who was happy—as we 
are happy. It is all a story of love crossed, imagina¬ 
tions like flies that have fallen into gum, things 
withheld and things forbidden. And all for nothing. 
All for pride and spite. Not all that world had a 
giver who gave with both hands. . . . Poor Milly! 
Do you think she did not know how coldly you 
loved her, Sarnac? Do you think her jealousy was 
not born of a certainty and a fear? ... A lifetime, 
a whole young man’s lifetime, a quarter of a century, 
and this poor Harry Smith never once met a happy 
soul and came only once within sight of happiness! 
And he was just one of scores and hundreds of 



millions! They went heavily and clumsily and 
painfully, oppressing and obstructing each other, 
from the cradle to the grave.” 

This was too much for the guest-master, who 
almost wailed aloud. “But surely there was happi¬ 
ness! Surely there were moods and phases of 

“In gleams and flashes,” said Sarnac. “But I 
verily believe that what Firefly says is true. In 
all my world there were no happy lives.” 

“Not even children?” 

“Lives, I said, not parts of lives. Children would 
laugh and dance for a while if they were born in 

“And out of that darkness,” said Radiant; “in 
twenty short centuries our race has come to the 
light and tolerance, the sweet freedoms and charities 
of our lives to-day.” 

“Which is no sort of comfort to me,” said Firefly, 
“when I think of the lives that have been.” 

“Unless this is the solution,” the guest-master 
cried, “that everyone is presently to dream back 
the lives that have gone. Unless the poor memory- 
ghosts of all those sad lives that have been are to 
be brought into the consolation of our happiness. 
Here, poor souls, for your comfort is the land of 
heart’s desire and all your hopes come true. Here 
you live again in your ampler selves. Here lovers 
are not parted for loving and your loves are not your 
torment. ... Now I see why men must be im¬ 
mortal, for otherwise the story of man’s martyrdom 
is too pitiful to tell. Many good men there w T ere 
like me, jolly men with a certain plumpness, men 



with an excellent taste for wine and cookery, who 
loved men almost as much as they loved the food 
and drink that made men, and they could not do 
the jolly work I do and make comfort and happiness 
every day for fresh couples of holiday friends. 
Surely presently I shall find the memories of the 
poor licensed innkeeper I was in those ancient days, 
the poor, overruled, ill-paid publican, handing out 
bad stuff in wrath and shame, I shall find all his 
troubles welling up again in me. Consoled in this 
good inn. If it was I who suffered in those days, I 
am content, but if it was some other good fellow who 
died and never came to this, then there is no justice 
in the heart of God. So I swear by immortality 
now and henceforth—not for greed of the future 
but in the name of the wasted dead. 

“Look!” the guest-master continued. “Morning 
comes and the cracks at the edge of the door-curtain 
grow brighter than the light within. Go all of you 
and watch the mountain glow. I will mix you a 
warm bowl of drink and then we will sleep for an 
hour or so before you breakfast and go your way.” 

§ 3 

“It was a life,” said Sarnac, “and it was a dream, 
a dream within this life; and this life too is a dream. 
Dreams within dreams, dreams containing dreams, 
until we come at last, maybe, to the Dreamer of all 
dreams, the Being who is all beings. Nothing is 
too wonderful for life and nothing is too beautiful.” 

He got up and thrust back the great curtain of 
the guest-house room. “All night we have been 



talking and living in the dark Ages of Confusion 
and now the sunrise is close at hand.” 

He went out upon the portico of the guest-house 
and stood still, surveying the great mountains that 
rose out of cloud and haze, dark blue and mysterious 
in their recesses and soaring up at last into the flush 
of dawn. 

He stood quite still and all the world seemed still, 
except that, far away and far below, a mist of sounds 
beneath the mountain mists, a confusion of birds 
was singing.